In Historic Bennett Meeting, UAE Crown Prince Hopes for 'Regional Stability'

Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan is optimistic the first formal visit by an Israeli prime minister would lead to 'more positive steps in the interests of the people of the two nations and of the region'

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Israel's Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan in Abu Dhabi, on Monday.
Israel's Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan in Abu Dhabi, on Monday.Credit: Haim Zach\GPO
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

Israel's Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Emirati Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan met on Monday in the crown prince's private palace in Abu Dhabi to discuss Iran and bilateral issues.

Israel considered the 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.

A statement on state news agency WAM said Sheikh Mohammed voiced hope for "stability in the Middle East" and that Bennett's visit would "advance the relationship of cooperation towards more positive steps in the interests of the people of the two nations and of the region."

Though the two discussed Iran, Israel is refraining from speaking publicly about the leaders' conversation on the topic, in order to be sensitive to the diplomatic needs of the Emiratis. 

The Emirati statement made no direct mention of either Iran's nuclear program or the Palestinian issue during the leaders' meeting, which lasted four hours in total, two and half of them in private between the two.

The Israeli prime minister, according to the Emirati statement, "commended the level of cooperation between the two countries," and the two leaders agreed to boost bilateral cooperation on a variety of issues.

Bennett also invited Sheikh Mohammed to Israel for his first official visit, though no date has been set.

According to Israeli statements, economic issues took center stage at the meeting. The two agreed on accelerating moves to establish a free trade agreement between Israel and the UAE, as well as a number of other economic ventures. Both leaders also agreed to promote joint projects in the field of renewable energy.

Upon Bennett's departure on Monday, the two leaders released a joint statement reaffirming the countries' commitment to pursuing cooperation on a variety of issues such as climate change, health and trade. No mention was made of either Iran or the Palestinians.

Bennett was welcomed in Abu Dhabi on Sunday by Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed. The visit indicates the strengthening ties between Israel and some Arab countries in the region, a process that began with the signing of the Abraham Accords brokered by former U.S. President Donald Trump in 2020. 

"This is peace and the new reality this region is witnessing, and we are working together to ensure a better future for our children" Bennet said in an interview with Emirates News Agency on Monday. 

"I expect that our relations will remain good, especially in the economic field. In my opinion, cooperation in the field of health and food security will constitute a major part of the mutual cooperation," he added. 

Bennett’s trip comes on the heels of a visit by the UAE’s national security adviser, Sheikh Tahnoon bin Zayed Al Nahyan to Tehran, where he met with Iran’s new hard-line president, Ebrahim Raisi, in a bid to ease tensions. It was a major visit for the Gulf Arab federation that has long viewed Iran as its main regional threat.

In a statement released Sunday, Bennett said that he was glad to take off for the historic visit, which is intended to "deepen the cooperation between the countries in all fields. Our relations are excellent and diverse, and we must continue to nurture and strengthen them, and to build the warm peace between the two nations."

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