Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan to fortify their regional alliance in Sharm el-Sheikh on Tuesday.
The statement from the Egyptian presidency said the leaders discussed energy market stability, food security and other international issues. It did not mention cooperation against Iran, in the shadow of last-gasp negotiations over its nuclear deal.
However, the timing of the summit is intended to present a united front against the West's steps to secure a nuclear deal with Iran, and to express dissatisfaction over the U.S.'s decision to drop Iran's Revolutionary Guards from its list of terror organizations.
Putin's wild card, Ukraine's hope: LISTEN to Anshel Pfeffer in bombarded Kyiv
Plans for the summit were finalized in secret over the past several days and position Israel as a stabilizing influence in the region, a diplomatic source said, adding that Bennett arrived in Egypt to assist with a range of issues against the backdrop of the war in Ukraine.
The summit was part of an effort to forge a coalition with American backing among countries that in the past were considered adversaries of Israel – including Egypt, the Gulf states and Turkey.
As part of this, Israel is trying to assist in easing tensions between the U.S. and the Gulf states, which have been compounded by the ambivalence of the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia toward Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
Israel is interested in convincing the UAE and Saudi Arabia to boost their oil production to reduce the world's dependence on Russia oil, Haaretz has been told. The two Arab countries recently made it clear that they are unwilling to increase production, although Israeli officials said that such a step would be important.
- Iran deal, Ukraine on the agenda as Israel's Bennett meets with UAE Crown Prince, Sissi in Egypt
- The Middle East Club: In Bennett’s meeting with Sissi and bin Zayed, more than Iran on agenda
- Israel, Egypt launch first direct flights from Tel Aviv to Sharm El-Sheikh
- Assad visits UAE in first trip to Arab country since start of Syrian civil war
- How the war in Ukraine could sow chaos in the Middle East
On another economic front, Israel wishes to assist Egypt in finding alternative sources of wheat. Up until the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, the country was dependent on wheat from Ukraine and Russia. It has also been hurt by a spike in world wheat prices due to the war.
Although it was not mentioned in the statement, an Egyptian official said the three leaders would focus in their talks on Iran, Syria and Ukraine ahead of the meeting. He said Iran would be on the agenda in light of the progress in the talks between Iran and the major world powers in Vienna and that a common front among Egypt, Israel and the UAE would send an important message to Washington.
When it comes to Syria, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayid met Syrian President Bashar Assad in Abu Dhabi last week. On the Ukrainian issue, the Egyptian confirmed that the implications of the war in Ukraine on the world energy market would be discussed, adding that the Palestinian issue, particularly the situation in Gaza, is not expected to be a major area of discussion.
Bennett and Sissi previously met in September in Sinai for the first time since the Israeli premier took office. September's meeting also marked the first formal, public meeting between leaders of Israel and Egypt in a decade.
Bennett and Emirati Prince Mohammed met in December at the crown prince's private palace in Abu Dhabi to discuss Iran and bilateral issues.
Israel considered that visit – the first formal visit by an Israeli prime minister to the United Arab Emirates – as a resounding success. Both leaders developed a personal relationship that would help tighten ties between the Gulf states and Israel in the future, Israeli officials said.