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Netanyahu said to shorten scheduled Gulf visit from 3 days to just 3 hours

Trip set to take place a day after PM appears in court for hearing in corruption trial, will reportedly only include visit to Abu Dhabi, with Bahrain and Dubai legs canceled

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left; United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan; and Bahrain Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa; at the White House, Sept. 15, 2020. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left; United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan; and Bahrain Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa; at the White House, Sept. 15, 2020. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Due to still-rampant coronavirus infections, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has reportedly significantly shortened next week’s scheduled historic visit to Gulf states that recently established ties with Israel from three days to just three hours.

Instead of the planned tour of Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Bahrain, Netanyahu will only briefly visit Abu Dhabi, with the other legs canceled, Hebrew media reported on Sunday.

Netanyahu’s shortened itinerary includes a meeting with the UAE’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan at his palace.

The report was not confirmed by the Prime Minister’s Office.

Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, during a meeting at the White House in Washington, May 15, 2017. (Andrew Harnik/AP)

The visit has already been postponed several times and is now set to take place the day after Netanyahu appears in court for a hearing in his corruption trial.

Netanyahu had originally been set to make the trip in November, then December, and then in January, but the pandemic, scheduling issues, and internal political crises led him to postpone repeatedly.

The trip will presumably be a celebration of Israel’s normalization deals as well as boosting Netanyahu’s diplomatic bona fides ahead of upcoming elections. Netanyahu presumably also hopes to use the visit to enlist Arab leaders in a joint campaign against a US return to the Iran nuclear deal.

The captain of the El Al airliner which will carry US and Israeli delegations to the United Arab Emirates waves to spectators as the plane prepares to take off on the first-ever commercial flight from Israel to the UAE, at Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv, Israel, Monday, Aug. 31, 2020. (Menahem Kahana/Pool via AP)

The Israeli leader is thought to have visited various Gulf capitals in secret as the countries maintained an under-the-radar relationship brought into the open amid a flurry of diplomatic activity over the last several months. In 2018, he visited Oman, but only confirmed the visit after the fact.

Israel established diplomatic ties with the UAE and Bahrain in September as part of a US-brokered group of agreements known as the Abraham Accords. Last week saw the arrival of Israel’s first ambassador to the UAE.

In addition to the two Gulf states, Israel has also reached normalization agreements with Sudan and Morocco.

Lazar Berman contributed to this report.

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