Israel-UAE deal: Netanyahu secretly met crown prince MBZ in 2018, report says

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu secretly met UAE's Mohammed bin Zayed in 2018 (AFP)

MEE Staff

Middle East Eye  /  September 1, 2020

The Israeli premier visited Abu Dhabi and met Mohammed bin Zayed two years before the agreement officialising diplomatic relations between the two countries.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu secretly visited Abu Dhabi to meet the UAE’s crown prince two years before their countries’ recent deal, Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth reported on Tuesday.

According to the newspaper’s diplomatic sources, the 2018 meeting with Mohammed bin Zayed was also attended by the head of Israeli intelligence agency Mossad, Yossi Cohen.

Netanyahu has long hinted at secret ties with Arab countries and did the same again on Monday in a speech celebrating a summit in Abu Dhabi that carried the US-Israeli delegation on the first official commercial flight between the two countries.

“There are many things that I cannot yet tell you about, but I believe that in time they will come to light. But you can see the changes for yourselves – some of them, the tip of the iceberg, you have seen them in recent years,” said Netanyahu.

The PM said he had invited a UAE delegation to visit Israel, where “we will give them a red carpet welcome just like they welcomed us”.

He also listed his recent meetings with Arab and Muslims leaders of Oman, Chad and Sudan.

Monday’s flight received permission from Riyadh to pass over Saudi Arabia, which has also been seen to be opening up relations with Israel.

This week’s summit cemented the newly official diplomatic relations between the UAE and Israel and was attended by White House adviser and presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner.

Israel and the United Arab Emirates agreed on Tuesday to set up a joint committee on financial services cooperation with the aim of promoting investment between the two countries, an Israeli statement said.

Israeli and UAE officials meeting in Abu Dhabi signed the understanding, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in the statement.

While the Emirates has stated that the deal was predicated on Israel freezing its plan to annex large swathes of the occupied West Bank, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has publicly said that annexation was still on the table.

News of the normalisation agreement between Israel and the Gulf state on 13 August was denounced by Palestinians as tantamount to “treason” and effectively giving Israel the green light to continue its occupation and annexation of Palestinian lands unabated.

Palestinian Authority (PA) Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh denounced the flight on Monday.

“It is very painful to see today the landing of an Israeli plane in the United Arab Emirates in a clear violation of the Arab stance on the Arab-Israeli conflict,” PA news agency Wafa quoted him as saying.