Blaming Jordan, Netanyahu Cancels Historic UAE Visit

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Benjamin and Sara Netanyahu, last year.
Benjamin and Sara Netanyahu, last year.Credit: Avishag Shaar-Yashuv

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu canceled his visit to the United Arab Emirates on Thursday, claiming there were difficulties with approving the flight path with Jordan.

This marks the fourth time Netanyahu's historic visit to the UAE, which would have been the first since the Gulf state established diplomatic ties with Israel, was canceled.

On Wednesday Haaretz reported that according to government sources, Netanyahu will fly out and return to Israel on the same day, some two weeks before Israel's fourth election in two years.

The Prime Minister's Office said the issue likely stemmed from the cancelation of a visit to the Temple Mount by Jordan's Crown Prince on Wednesday over disagreements regarding security arrangements.

Jordan eventually did allow the flight to enter its airspace, but as the approval came too late, it was agreed by Netanyahu and Emirati Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed to reschedule the visit, the statement said.

In a statement, Jordan said Hussein bin Abdullah's visit to the Al-Aqsa Mosque was canceled in order to prevent Israel from imposing restrictions on his first visit to the holy sites.

This marks the first time Netanyahu officially acknowledged that the visit was in fact scheduled to take place; the visit had never been announced in an official capacity beforehand. 

A political source said earlier Thursday that Netanyahu was weighing canceling the visit, as Sara Netanyahu is expected to remain hospitalized for a few days with appendicitis.

In addition, Israeli officials, led by Mossad chief Yossi Cohen, were also trying to secure a meeting between Netanyahu and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, which would be their first public meeting.

However, a Saudi official source denied the report and told Reuters that Prince Mohammed would not be visiting the UAE on Thursday and would not be meeting Netanyahu.

In September, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain signed agreements to normalize ties with Israel becoming the first Arab states in a quarter century to break a longstanding taboo, in a strategic realignment of Middle East countries against Iran.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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