Mossad chief said heading to UAE for talks on Monday

Hebrew media says pre-arranged visit not connected to recently announced normalization deal; Israeli delegation to talks reportedly held up over internal disputes

Head of the Mossad Yossi Cohen speaks at a cyber conference at Tel Aviv University on June 24, 2019. (Flash90)
Head of the Mossad Yossi Cohen speaks at a cyber conference at Tel Aviv University on June 24, 2019. (Flash90)

Mossad director Yossi Cohen will travel to the United Arab Emirates on Monday, Hebrew-language media reported, in the first high-profile visit by an Israeli since the announcement of a deal to normalize ties between the two countries.

Cohen’s visit is not directly tied to the agreement that was announced last Thursday, and he was originally scheduled to have traveled there several months ago, the Walla news site reported.

It was initially reported last week that Cohen would head the delegation to formalize the agreement. However it is currently not clear 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 Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s Blue and White party wants the Foreign Ministry to lead it. Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi is from Blue and White.

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

Israel and the United Arab Emirates announced Thursday that they are establishing full diplomatic relations in a US-brokered accord, which also required Israel to suspend its contentious plan to annex West Bank land sought by the Palestinians for a future state. Israel had previously planned to unilaterally move ahead with the 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  Gantz — out of the loop regarding the brewing normalization deal between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, but said he did so at the request of the US.

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