Prime minister to make first visit to UAE since peace agreement.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman may meet in Abu Dhabi on Thursday, a well-placed Emirati source said on Wednesday.
“MBS is ready to meet Bibi,” the source said, confirming that talks are ongoing in the three countries to arrange the meeting.
Israel and Saudi Arabia do not have diplomatic relations, but ties between the countries have been warming, especially in cooperation against their shared adversary Iran. Netanyahu and MBS, as the Saudi crown prince is known, met in November of last year in the Saudi town of Neom, though neither has officially confirmed it.
Asked about meeting with MBS on Tuesday, Netanyahu quipped: “What is it like to ask questions you know you won’t get an answer to?”
Netanyahu plans to fly to the United Arab Emirates on Thursday, for the first time since its normalization agreement with Israel last year.
The prime minister is expected to meet with Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, seven months after Israel and the UAE announced the Abraham Accords of peace and normalization.
The trip is set to take place less than two weeks before the March 23 election, despite reports that officials in the UAE were hesitant to host Netanyahu at a date that would be viewed as political.
The source in Abu Dhabi confirmed that the election was a consideration, but the UAE’s leadership decided to welcome Netanyahu regardless of the date.
The prime minister is expected to take a private plane to Abu Dhabi and conduct meetings at the airport.
The plan is for a quick jaunt to Abu Dhabi, the UAE capital, for several hours. Netanyahu would leave Thursday morning and arrive back in Jerusalem in time for a 6 p.m. meeting with the prime ministers of Hungary and the Czech Republic.
Three of Netanyahu’s planned visits to the UAE were canceled in the past, twice due to COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions, as well as political developments, and once because of scheduling issues in Abu Dhabi. He had originally planned a trip of several days, with stops in Dubai and Bahrain as well.
Speaking of a planned visit to the UAE, Netanyahu said last month: “It has great security, national and international importance.”
The UAE announced on Wednesday that it is in “formal discussions to establish a quarantine-free travel corridor” with Israel.
The UAE would recognize Israeli vaccination certificates for COVID-19, and vice versa.
The countries’ foreign ministries hope to implement the agreement in April, the UAE Foreign Ministry stated.
Israel and the UAE are the countries with the world’s fastest COVID-19 vaccination campaigns.