An official from the United Arab Emirates appeared to criticize Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu amid a diplomatic tiff over the premier’s attempted use of Abu Dhabi as a stop on the campaign trail, saying the normalization deal was not made for the benefit of individual leaders.
“The UAE signed the Accords for the hope and opportunities they provide our people, not individual leaders,” the Emirati official told CNN on Thursday.
“Personalizing and politicizing the Accords in this way demeans the historic achievement. The UAE will not go down that road,” the source added.
Netanyahu had been long planning and repeatedly canceling an official visit to Abu Dhabi, most recently scheduled for last week. His election speeches have touted a UAE $10 billion investment fund aimed at strategic sectors in Israel.
The diplomatic dust-up appears to be the first public spat since relations were forged last year between Abu Dhabi and Jerusalem.
As the Emiratis voiced anger over the political implications of a possible Netanyahu visit, the premier denied Wednesday he was still seeking to make the trip just days before Israel’s national election next Tuesday. He called the idea “spin,” even as a Likud ministerial colleague said it was indeed a possibility.
Israel and the UAE established ties last year in a deal known as the Abraham Accords, a diplomatic coup for Netanyahu brokered by his staunch ally, former US president Donald Trump. Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco have since followed suit.
Netanyahu has sought to burnish his credentials as Israel’s leading statesman as part of his reelection pitch ahead of March 23 polls, and a UAE visit could have aided that effort.
But another Emirati official said in pointed comments on Wednesday that the United Arab Emirates would not get involved in Israeli electioneering.
“From the UAE’s perspective, the purpose of the Abrahamic Accords is to provide a robust strategic foundation to foster peace and prosperity with the State of Israel and in the wider region,” tweeted Anwar Gargash, an adviser to UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed.
“The UAE will not be a part in any internal electioneering in Israel, now or ever,” he said, without elaborating.
The comments from Gargash, who until recently was the face of UAE diplomacy as its minister of state for foreign affairs, were unusually candid for an Emirati official.
The trip to the UAE had been planned for several months but postponed on numerous occasions, most recently in February. Netanyahu had originally been set to make the trip in November, then December, and then in January and February, but the pandemic, scheduling issues, and internal political crises led to repeated delays.
The UAE was reportedly reluctant to agree to host him last week, because of concerns that this would be perceived as election interference, and Netanyahu was said to have deployed Mossad intelligence agency chief Yossi Cohen to persuade them.
According to a Thursday report, the UAE also suspended plans for a summit at which it was to host Netanyahu, senior US officials, and the heads of Arab states that have normalized relations with Israel.
The summit had been set to take place in Abu Dhabi in April but has now been shelved after Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed was angered by what he reportedly perceived as Netanyahu’s endeavor to use the Gulf nation for electioneering.
Adding further insult to injury, a UAE minister on Tuesday appeared to downplay an earlier announcement on establishing a $10 billion investment fund aimed at strategic sectors in Israel — a plan that was heavily touted by Netanyahu.
AFP contributed to this report