Israeli minister said detained for hours at Dubai airport after rare visit

Report says Emirati officials refused to let Ayoub Kara board flight home because he was late and didn’t listen to airport personnel

Communications Minister Ayoub Kara delivers a speech during the International Telecommunication Union Plenipotentiary Conference in Dubai, on October 30, 2018. (STRINGER / AFP)
Communications Minister Ayoub Kara delivers a speech during the International Telecommunication Union Plenipotentiary Conference in Dubai, on October 30, 2018. (STRINGER / AFP)

Israel’s burgeoning diplomatic ties with the Gulf states suffered a minor setback when Communications Minister Ayoub Kara was detained at the Dubai airport and missed his flight after apparently failing to heed instructions from airport officials, the Kan news broadcaster reported Sunday, calling the incident “a farce.”

Kara has a long history of diplomatic snafus, but this incident comes at a particularly sensitive time, when Israel’s previously clandestine ties with Arab states are coming out into the open.

Kara, who was on a week-long visit to the United Arab Emirates to attend a telecommunications conference, was held for several hours at the airport last Thursday when trying to leave, the report said.

Citing officials in Dubai, the report said that Kara was late for the flight and refused to follow instructions from airport personnel on the ground, prompting officials to detain him for several hours.

“He was held up; there was chaos and arguments,” the report said, calling the incident “a farce” and “an embarrassment” for those involved. Kara missed his flight, but was later released and put on another plane.

Kara’s office confirmed that an incident had occurred, but told Kan he missed his flight because Dubai officials took too long inspecting his passport.

It wasn’t Kara’s first diplomatic incident.

Last year Morocco issued a rare official complaint to Israel after Kara posed for a picture with the prime minister of the breakaway Sahrawi Republic of southern Morocco.

Likud Minister Ayoub Kara (L) meets with prime minister of the Sahrawi Republic of southern Morocco, Abdelkader Taleb Omar in Ecuador on May 24, 2017. (Courtesy)

In November 2016, Kara posted to his Facebook page details of a security-related incident involving the Jewish state, all elements of which are still under a gag order. The post was quickly taken down, but not before journalists and others saw the information.

A month earlier, Kara drew condemnation from the Foreign Ministry when, during a visit to Italy, he suggested that powerful earthquakes in that country were divine retribution for anti-Israel actions in the United Nations.

The unusual diplomatic incident came days after Culture Minister Miri Regev attended a sports tournament in Abu Dhabi and follows Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s official visit to the Gulf state of Oman, the first such meeting in over 20 years.

Like the UAE, Oman has no diplomatic ties with Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) talks with Sultan Qaboos bin Said in Oman on October 26, 2018 (Courtesy)

In his address at the International Telecommunication Union Plenipotentiary Conference in Dubai, Kara on Tuesday called for “peace and security” in the region, saying economic and scientific progress “guarantees a future for the coming generations.”

Israel and the Gulf Arab countries have shared concerns over Iran’s activities in the region, including its nuclear program and its involvement in civil wars in Syria and Yemen.

Normalizing ties with Israel — or recognizing it as a state — remains the most controversial policy debate in the Arab world, which largely boycotts Israel over its control of areas Palestinians claim for a future state.

Netanyahu has long sought a rapprochement with Arab states, citing in part concerns over their common enemy Iran. Jordan and Egypt are the only two Arab states to have full diplomatic relations with Israel.

On Sunday night, Transportation Minister Israel Katz departed for Oman to attend an international transportation conference. Katz, who is also Israel’s intelligence minister, is to present a plan to build a rail link between the Arab Gulf states and Israel.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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