WASHINGTON – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly met in March with a senior diplomat from the United Arab Emirates, a country that does not officially have diplomatic relations with Israel.
According to a report by the Associated Press, Netanyahu met the UAE's ambassador to Washington, Yousef al Otaiba, during his visit to the American capital two months ago.
The report stated that during Netanyahu's three-day visit to Washington, he had dinner at a restaurant where Otaiba was also present with a group. The Emirati ambassador, considered one of the most influential foreign emissaries in Washington, was made aware of Netanyahu's presence and invited him and his wife, Sara, to join his table.
According to the report, Netanyahu joined the ambassador's table, answered some policy questions and shook hands with Otaiba before departing.
The Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem has yet to respond to the report.
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Although the two countries do not have diplomatic relations, they do hold similar views of Iran and were two of the harshest critics of the nuclear deal that U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from earlier this week.
In the past, it has been reported that Otaiba enjoys a friendly relationship with Israel's ambassador to Washington, Ron Dermer. Dermer even invited Otaiba to attend Netanyahu’s controversial speech to the U.S. Congress in March 2015 against the Iranian nuclear deal, but Otaiba politely declined, the Huffington Post reported.
Meetings between Netanyahu and senior officials from states in the Persian Gulf, however, have been very rare since the prime minister began his second term in 2009.
In July 2017, Haaretz revealed that Netanyahu secretely met with Otaiba and the UAE's foreign minister, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, at the prime minister's hotel room in New York in 2012.
While Netanyahu and Nahyan saw eye to eye on the Iranian nuclear issue, the foreign minister told Netanyahu his country could not warm up its relations with Israel as long as there was no progress in the peace process with the Palestinians, said two senior Western diplomats who asked to remain anonymous because of the sensitivity of the matter.