Bennett to meet with Bahrain, UAE ministers ahead of UN General Assembly speech

Talks will be PM’s first with Gulf officials since taking office; Foreign Minister Lapid said to have quietly met Jordan’s king last month

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett leads a cabinet meeting at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, on September 12, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett leads a cabinet meeting at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, on September 12, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett will meet with ministers from Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates on Sunday, ahead of his address to the United Nations General Assembly.

The meetings with Bahrain’s foreign minister and a minister of state affairs from UAE will be Bennett’s first talks with Gulf leaders since taking office in June.

The UAE was the first of four regional states who normalized ties with Israel last year.

The 2020 agreements with the UAE, Bahrain, Sudan, and Morocco, also known as the Abraham Accords, broke with the longstanding Arab notion that there should be no normalization with Israel until it reaches a comprehensive peace deal with the Palestinians.

Bennett’s address will take place next Monday, at 9 a.m. local time (4 p.m. Israel time), meaning that he will manage to squeeze in the speech less than three hours before the Shemini Atzeret holiday begins. Still, many Israelis will be more focused on holiday preparations than the prime minister’s speech.

The trip will be Bennett’s second official visit to the United States as prime minister. On August 27, Bennett met with US President Joe Biden at the White House.

Bennett’s spokesman said that during the upcoming visit, the prime minister will also host a meeting with the heads of Jewish organizations, which he was largely unable to do during his trip to Washington, DC.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid (left) speaks at a conference marking 100 days since the formation of the Israeli government, in Shefayim, on September 22, 2021; and Jordan’s King Abdullah II (right) listens during a meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in Amman, Jordan, on May 26, 2021. (Gili Yaari/Flash90; AP/Alex Brandon, Pool)

Meanwhile, Channel 12 news reported on Saturday that Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Jordanian King Abdullah II met in secret last month at the crown palace in Amman.

The two discussed “tensions in Jerusalem around the Temple Mount” and the need to strengthen relations between the two nations, the report said.

The Foreign Ministry declined the network’s request for comment.

Lapid’s reported trip was the latest in a series of high-level contacts between the countries after the swearing-in of Israel’s new government last month, following strained bilateral ties in recent years during the premiership of Benjamin Netanyahu.

In July, Bennett met with Abdullah in secret at the crown palace in Amman, in the first summit between the countries’ leaders in over three years. President Isaac Herzog also met the Jordanian king last month, as did Defense Minister Benny Gantz in February.

Lazar Berman contributed to this report.

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