As Bennett ends UAE visit, his office says crown prince accepted invite to Israel

After PM meets with nation’s de facto ruler, countries issue joint statement calling first-ever visit by an Israeli premier ‘another milestone in the development of warm relations’

UAE Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed whispers to Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in Abu Dhabi, on December 13, 2021. (Haim Zach/GPO)
UAE Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed whispers to Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in Abu Dhabi, on December 13, 2021. (Haim Zach/GPO)

Abu Dhabi’s powerful Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan has accepted Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s invitation to visit Israel, his office said Monday, as the latter wrapped up the first-ever trip by an Israeli premier to the United Arab Emirates.

Bennett instructed officials to begin making preparations for bin Zayed’s visit. No timeframe was given for the trip.

The prime minister met Monday with bin Zayed for some four hours, with more than half of the time spent in one-on-one talks, Bennett’s office said.

In a statement before departing, Bennett thanked bin Zayed for “for the very warm hospitality” and said the two held “in-depth, sincere and significant talks.”

“We discussed the two countries’ relative strengths. Our goal is to expand ties so that there is not only peace between the leaders but also between the peoples,” he said.

“I am leaving here with great optimism that this example, of ties between the two countries, will be a cornerstone for a wide-ranging network of ties throughout the region.”

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (left) sits down with UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan in the latter’s Abu Dhabi palace on December 13, 2021. (Haim Zach/GPO)

The two countries released a joint statement calling Bennett’s trip “another milestone in the development of warm relations,” following their agreement last year to normalize diplomatic ties.

The statement said the sides agreed to establish a joint research and development fund.

“This joint fund, and a corresponding joint business council, will harness leading economic and technological minds in the UAE and in Israel, and task them with commercializing solutions to challenges ranging from climate change and desertification to clean energy and future agriculture,” it said.

In addition to his talks with bin Zayed, Bennett met Monday with the UAE’s Industry and Advanced Technology Minister Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber and Culture Minister Noura bint Mohammed Al Kaabi.

The premier arrived Sunday in Abu Dhabi, where he was greeted at the airport by Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan, the crown prince’s brother.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed walk past an honor guard in Abu Dhabi on December 12, 2021. (Haim Zach/GPO)

Before leaving for the UAE, the prime minister said the aim of his trip was to further expand ties between Israel and the UAE.

The visit came as Israel and its Gulf allies fret about Iran’s nuclear program. Talks between Iran and world powers stalled again last week.

Israel and the UAE forged ties in the United States-brokered Abraham Accords last year, bringing over a decade of covert contacts into the open. Their relationship has flourished since then.

Bahrain, Sudan, and Morocco later also joined the Accords, and other countries were also rumored to be in talks, though none has come to fruition so far.

Former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was instrumental in the signing of the Abraham Accords, repeatedly tried to schedule a visit to the UAE before leaving office, but was forced to cancel on a number of occasions and never made the trip as premier.

In June, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid officially inaugurated Israel’s embassy in the UAE. The Emirati embassy in Israel was inaugurated a month later.

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