Netanyahu Lands in D.C. for UAE, Bahrain Deals as Israel Braces for 3-week Lockdown

Netanyahu's main coalition partners, Defense Minister Benny and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, were excluded from the trip

Noa Landau
Washington, D.C.
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and wife Sara boarding a plane on the tarmac at Ben-Gurion Airport, heading for UAE signing ceremony in Washington, September 13, 2020.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and wife Sara boarding a plane on the tarmac at Ben-Gurion Airport, heading for UAE signing ceremony in Washington, September 13, 2020. Credit: Avi Ohayon / GPO
Noa Landau
Washington, D.C.

WASHINGTON — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Israeli delegation landed in the United States on Monday, ahead of a ceremony to sign agreements normalizing ties with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. 

The prime minister is joined on the trip by his wife, Sara, and his two sons, Yair and Avner.

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The Israeli delegation does not include any members of Defense Minister Benny Gantz's Kahol Lavan party, Netanyahu's coalition partner, as both Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi have been excluded from the delegation.

According to a letter from the Attorney General to the Prime Minister's Office, Netanyahu intends to bring the agreements to the Knesset for approval. Up until now, it was customary that after the government's approval and the signing ceremony, international peace agreements and treaties are submitted for Knesset approval, although this has never been regulated by direct legislation and is therefore not binding.

The White House ceremony on Tuesday will be presided over by U.S. President Donald Trump, and Netanyahu will be joined by the UAE's Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Bahrain's Foreign Minister, Dr. Abdullatif bin Rashid Al-Zayan, following the announcement Friday that the small island state of Bahrain would also establish full diplomatic relations with Israel.

A full list of attendees has yet to be released, but U.S. officials hope that other senior officials from Arab and Muslim countries will attend, at least with the presence of their ambassadors to the United States. In addition, the administration still hopes to enlist SudanOman and Morocco to join the normalization initiative with Israel. There is currently no further official signal on the matter.

On Monday morning, Hungary announced it would send its foreign minister to attend the ceremony, the only EU country to do so. 

Despite Netanyahu speaking about the "historic" nature of the agreement, he has been under criticism at home for the timing of the visit, which comes days before a three-week coronavirus lockdown begins. The prime minister is facing a tempestuous political climate, as his government's management of the coronavirus crisis fuels popular anger over his trial on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust.

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