Labor chief Avi Gabbay visited Abu Dhabi, met senior Emirati leaders — report

Opposition politician said to discuss Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Trump peace plan, Iranian threat during secret three-day visit last month

Michael Bachner is a news editor at The Times of Israel

Labor Party leader Avi Gabbay leads a Zionist Union faction meeting at the Knesset on December 10, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Labor Party leader Avi Gabbay leads a Zionist Union faction meeting at the Knesset on December 10, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Labor Party leader Avi Gabbay secretly visited Abu Dhabi last month and discussed various regional subjects with three senior Emirati officials, according to a report Monday evening.

The three officials Gabbay met are ministers or even higher-ranked officials, Channel 10 reported.

During the meetings, Gabbay discussed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, US President Donald Trump’s long-anticipated peace plan, the Arab Peace Initiative, the regional threat posed by Iran and the political situation in Israel, according to the report.

Gabbay was accompanied on his three-day visit by former journalist Henrique Cymerman, who is running for a spot on the Labor slate for the upcoming April 9 Knesset elections and was involved in organizing the visit.

The December 2-4 visit was reportedly coordinated via a Moroccan national who has ties with senior Emirati officials and has previously arranged other meetings for Gabbay with senior Arab officials.

Gabbay was said to have flown to Abu Dhabi on a commercial flight via the Jordanian capital Amman. He was protected by local security forces during his visit. Immediately upon returning to Israel, he reportedly updated Yossi Cohen, head of the Mossad spy agency, on the content of his meetings.

The TV station said the visit was the latest in a series of diplomatic meetings Gabbay has held with Arab officials over the past year, not all of which have been reported. They include meetings with Jordan’s King Abdullah and senior advisers to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Miri Regev, center, visiting the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi with UAE officials on October 29, 2018. (Courtesy Chen Kedem Maktoubi)

Gabbay’s office refused to comment on the story.

The report comes as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is investing great efforts in improving ties with Arab and Muslim countries, including Chad, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and also the United Arab Emirates.

In late October, Culture Minister Miri Regev visited Abu Dhabi to attend a judo tournament. Not only did the UAE permit the sounding of the Israeli national anthem twice at the competition in honor of two Israeli gold medalists, but Emirati officials also brought Regev on a tour of Abu Dhabi’s grand Sheikh Zayed Mosque.

Two days after Regev left the UAE, Communications Minister Ayoub Kara landed in Dubai, where he participated in an international telecommunications conference. Kara, who is Druze, delivered a speech in Arabic to the gathering, and spent four days in the Gulf country.

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