Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has delayed his trips to the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain for the third time, due to the restrictions on air travel as part of the COVID-19 lockdown, his office said Thursday.
Government sources said that Netanyahu feared that traveling to the Gulf would spark criticism, as many citizens remain unable to return as a result of Israel’s border controls.
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A statement from the Prime Minister’s Office reiterated the “importance” of the trip, and attributed the delay to the “closure of the skies.”
“Prime Minister Netanyahu greatly appreciates the invitations of Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan and King of Bahrain Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa and the historic peace that has been established between our countries,” it continued.
Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, Netanyahu said the planned visit is “of utmost security, national and international importance.”
Despite this, Greek Prime Minister Kiryakos Mitsotakis will be arriving on a visit to Israel on Monday as scheduled, during which Israel and Greece are expected to sign an agreement for mutual recognition of vaccine certificates that will make it possible to renew tourism between the two countries.
Israel is already holding discussions with a number of countries about such agreements, and this one will apparently be the first to be signed. The agreement will only come into effect when Ben-Gurion International Airport reopens.
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Israel shut Ben-Gurion Airport through Sunday as part of its bid to limit the spread of coronavirus, but the cabinet will meet later on Thursday to discuss an extension to the policy.