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.
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 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.