After months of delays, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is set to travel to the Gulf in mid-February for the first official visits of an Israeli leader to the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, Channel 13 News reported over the weekend.
The report said Netanyahu is expected to spend one day in UAE capital Abu Dhabi, another in Dubai and likely a third in Bahrain.
The purpose of the trip would be twofold: To celebrate Israeli’s normalization with the two Arab nations and boost his diplomatic bonafides ahead of Israel’s upcoming elections. Netanyahu presumably hopes to use the visit to enlist Arab leaders in a joint campaign against a US return to the Iran nuclear deal.
Netanyahu had originally been set to make the trip in November, then December, and then in January, but the pandemic, scheduling issues, and internal political crises led the premier to postpone time and again.
The Israeli leader is thought to have visited various Gulf capitals in secret as the countries maintained an under-the-radar relationship only brought into the open amid a flurry of diplomatic activity over the last several months. In 2018, he visited Oman, but only confirmed the visit after the fact.
Israel established diplomatic ties with the UAE and Bahrain in September as part of a US-brokered group of agreements known as the Abraham Accords. This week saw the arrival of Israel’s first ambassador to the UAE.
In addition to the two Gulf states, Israel has also reached normalization agreements with Sudan and Morocco.