Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Emirati Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed discussed Iran’s nuclear program and its attacks on ships in the Persian Gulf at their meeting on Monday, but both leaders downplayed Iran in their public remarks and their joint press statement made no mention of it.
The omission is because Israel opted to be sensitive to the United Arab Emirates’ need for diplomacy with Tehran.
The meeting between the two leaders, which took place at the prince’s palace in Abu Dhabi, lasted longer than expected. Both men’s aides were present for the first part of it, after which the two met alone for around two and a half hours. After a break for lunch, they then went to the palace balcony for another lengthy chat.
Economic issues featured prominently in their discussions. The two leaders agreed to accelerate talks on a free-trade agreement between their countries, as well as on several other economic initiatives. They also agreed to promote joint projects in the field of renewable energy.
Emirati Culture Minister Noura bint Mohammed Al Kaabi, who also met with Bennett on Monday, is expected to visit Israel soon. The UAE is considering investing in joint television ventures with Israel, partially due to the success of Israeli TV series on Netflix.
Officials in Bennett’s entourage deemed the visit a success, in part because it provided a chance for the two leaders to develop a personal relationship that could facilitate relations between the countries.
The crown prince also made several noteworthy gestures to his guest, including moving their meeting from his official palace to his private residence. This was very unusual, since he doesn’t usually host visiting dignitaries there.
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Another gesture was sending his brother, Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed, to welcome Bennett at the airport.
This is the first time an Israeli premier has made an official visit to the UAE. Bennett invited the crown prince to pay a reciprocal visit to Israel, but so far, no date for such a visit has been set.