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Mossad chief lands back in Abu Dhabi for talks on normalization

Broader Israeli delegation reportedly held up over internal disputes

Mossad Director Yossi Cohen attends a handover ceremony for the position of IDF chief of military intelligence, at the Glilot military base, near Tel Aviv, on March 28, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Mossad Director Yossi Cohen attends a handover ceremony for the position of IDF chief of military intelligence, at the Glilot military base, near Tel Aviv, on March 28, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Mossad Director Yossi Cohen landed in the United Arab Emirates on Monday, in the first high-profile visit by an Israeli official since the announcement of a deal to normalize ties between the two countries.

Cohen, who has been credited with a prominent role in the negotiations on the agreement that will see Israel and the UAE forge diplomatic ties, was in Abu Dhabi for additional talks on the normalization deal.

A larger Israeli delegation is expected in Abu Dhabi later this week.

It was initially reported last week that Cohen would head the delegation to formalize the agreement. However, it is currently unclear who will lead the talks, amid reports of internal disputes in Israel that could see the departure of the delegation delayed.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said that National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat would lead the preparations for the talks “in coordination with all the relevant parties.”

However, according to Walla news, Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi’s Blue and White party wants the Foreign Ministry to lead it. 

“There is no date yet for the delegation’s departure,” Walla quoted a senior Israeli official as saying Monday.

Israel and the United Arab Emirates announced Thursday that they are establishing full diplomatic relations under a breakthrough deal in a US-brokered accord. Israel had previously planned to unilaterally move ahead with the annexation measures, on the basis of the US peace plan.

The agreement makes the UAE the third Arab country, after Egypt and Jordan, to have full, active diplomatic ties with Israel. Thursday’s joint statement said deals between Israel and the UAE were expected in the coming weeks in such areas as tourism, security and trade.

The cabinet is expected to be briefed on the agreement on Tuesday, Walla reported.

Netanyahu admitted on Thursday that he kept his senior coalition partners in the Blue and White party — including Ashkenazi, and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz — out of the loop regarding the brewing normalization deal between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, and said he did so at the request of the US.

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