‘The honeymoon period is over’ between UAE and Israel
Benjamin Netanyahu’s attempts to involve the UAE in his re-election campaign has led to the UAE reducing its official contacts with Israel – in a clear protest at Netanyahu’s attempts, according to officials.
Last year the two countries normalised relations, but now find themselves in a new diplomatic crisis.
Since the accords were announced last August, the UAE was quick to bring its previously secret commercial and strategic ties to Israel, the two quickly fostered cultural, tourism and investment links.
But Abu Dhabi hasn’t hidden their dismay at Netanyahu’s attempts to bring the bilateral relationship into next week’s Israeli election. The Emiratis took notice when Netanyahu’s office leaked plans to the Israeli media ahead of the first-ever visit by an Israeli leader to the UAE. Israeli officials say the trip had been sold to them as a discreet discussion focused on Iranian aggression. The trip was cancelled at the last minute.
The officials say that a spat with Jordan over flyover rights for Netanyahu’s plane and his team’s desires to upgrade the quiet visit to something closer to a state visit, all irritated the Emiratis.
According to Israeli and Western officials, the UAE has since cut back formal contact with Israeli counterparts to a “bare minimum” – at least until the election is over and a clear winner emerges.
PM Benjamin Netanyahu is hoping the upcoming election will end the political stalemate that has seen four elections in two years. But the entire process could drag out for weeks, and possibly months.
Irritation with Israel
The UAE has shown its irritation with Israel though veiled public statements. Anwar Gargash (adviser to the UAE Presiden) said the accords provided a foundation for peace with Israel and the wider region.
In a tweet he said:
The UAE will not be a part of any internal electioneering in Israel, now or ever
The UAE minister of industry and advanced technology, downplayed a $10bn investment package, saying it was “not politically associated”.
The honeymoon [between the UAE and Israel] ended quickly owing to the stupidities of the new partner [ Israel],” said Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, a Dubai-based political science professor, in a tweet.
This isn’t the first time Netanyahu has upset an Arab power he is seeking to court. In November, Saudi Arabia was left angered and embarrassed after Israel leaked a secret trip Netanyahu had taken to meet Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Officials and analysts doubt irritation over the electioneering will weaken the foundations of the deal, such as security co-operation against Iran and bilateral investment and tourist opportunities.
“It is inevitable that such a relationship with Israel, which remains so controversial for so many in the Arab world, is and will remain subject to politicking, and some public spats are normal,” said Cinzia Bianco, a research fellow on Europe and the Gulf for the European Council on Foreign Relations. “But the potential is too appealing overall.” Emirati interest in partnering with Israel in the fields of technology, biotech, fintech and artificial intelligence should not be underestimated, she said.
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