UAE FM slated to visit Israel next week on two-year anniversary of Abraham Accords

Channel 12 reports that Abdullah bin Zayed will meet Lapid, Herzog, Netanyahu and Bennett, with Iran nuclear talks likely at top of the agenda

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid (R) welcomes his Emirati counterpart Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan at Sde Boker in southern Israel, on March 27, 2022, ahead of the Negev Summit. (Jack Guez/AFP)
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid (R) welcomes his Emirati counterpart Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan at Sde Boker in southern Israel, on March 27, 2022, ahead of the Negev Summit. (Jack Guez/AFP)

UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan will visit Israel next week to mark two years since the signing of the Abraham Accords, Channel 12 reported on Thursday.

Bin Zayed will meet with Prime Minister Yair Lapid, President Isaac Herzog, opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu and Alternate Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who continues to deal with issues related to Iran.

Bin Zayed last met with Bennett in Abu Dhabi during a snap visit by the then-Israeli premier in June, with the Iran nuclear talks at the top of the agenda then as it likely will be during Bin Zayed’s meetings next week.

While Israel and the UAE take slightly different approaches to the issue, with Jerusalem’s position seen as more hawkish, both countries have pressed the US to take a harder line against Iran in the negotiations to revive the nuclear deal. Those talks were believed to have made significant progress last month but have since hit another snag in recent weeks.

The Emirati foreign minister was last in Israel in March for the Negev Summit along with Bahraini, Moroccan, Egyptian and US counterparts, where they agreed to form a regional forum to discuss regional issues. This will be his first bilateral visit.

The UAE and Israel signed a normalization agreement in 2020 as part of the US-backed Abraham Accords. Bahrain, Sudan, and Morocco also normalized ties with Israel in the framework of the accords.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (left) meets with UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed al Nahyan in Abu Dhabi, June 9, 2022 (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Trade between Israel and the United Arab Emirates in 2022 has reached $1.4 billion in the first seven months of the year, Israel’s ambassador to the country Amir Hayek revealed last month. This is a significant increase from an already booming previous year when trade between the countries amounted to $1.2 billion.

Despite the positive developments, there have been minor signs of friction in the Israel-UAE relationship. A day after a record number of Jews were allowed to visit the Temple Mount on Jerusalem Day earlier this summer, the UAE foreign ministry called on Israel to provide “full protection” at the site, and urged respect for the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan’s informal role as custodian of Jerusalem’s holy sites.

The statement also called for an end to “provocative violations” at the Temple Mount and urged “maximum restraint” from Israel to avoid further instability.

In addition, plans to build a permanent sanctuary for Dubai’s fast-expanding Jewish congregation have sputtered to a standstill, Jewish leaders say. The new community is running up against hurdles that religious groups long have grappled with in the federation, where the state’s official religion of Islam is closely monitored, non-Muslim practice is controlled, and religious buildings are limited.

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