Israel’s Budding Ties With U.A.E. Are Soured by Electioneering


JERUSALEM — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel presents himself as a worldwide chief who’s in a special league than his rivals — one who can hold Israel protected and promote its pursuits on the world stage. However strains in his relations with two vital Arab allies, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates, have dented that picture within the fraught run-up to Israel’s do-over election.

Mr. Netanyahu’s private ties with King Abdullah II of Jordan have lengthy been frosty, although their nations have had diplomatic relations for many years, and not too long ago took a flip for the more severe. And the Israeli chief’s efforts to capitalize on his new partnership with the United Arab Emirates forward of the close-fought election on Tuesday have injected a bitter notice into the budding relationship between the 2 nations.

Senior Emirati officers despatched clear alerts over the previous week that the Persian Gulf nation wouldn’t be drawn into Mr. Netanyahu’s marketing campaign for re-election, a rebuke that dented his much-vaunted international coverage credentials.

Mr. Netanyahu, Israel’s longest serving prime minister, has at all times portrayed himself as the one candidate who can defend Israel’s safety and guarantee its survival in what has principally been a hostile area. He has touted peaceable relations with reasonable Arab states, together with Jordan and the Emirates, as essential to defend Israel’s borders and as a buttress towards Iranian ambitions within the area.

The tensions undermine Mr. Netanyahu’s makes an attempt to current himself as a Center East peacemaker as a part of his bid to stay in energy whereas on trial on corruption charges.

The primary indicators of bother got here after plans for Mr. Netanyahu’s first open go to to the Emirates have been canceled. Israel and the United Arab Emirates reached a landmark agreement last August to normalize their relations, step one in a broader regional course of that got here to be referred to as the Abraham Accords and which was a signature international coverage achievement of the Trump administration.

Mr. Netanyahu was imagined to fly to the Emirates’ capital, Abu Dhabi, on March 11 for a whirlwind assembly with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, the nation’s de facto ruler. However the plan went awry amid a separate diplomatic spat with Jordan, one of many first Arab nations to signal a peace treaty with Israel in 1994.

The day earlier than the scheduled journey, a uncommon go to by the Jordanian crown prince to the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem — considered one of Islam’s holiest websites — was scuttled due to a disagreement between Jordan and Israel over safety preparations for the prince.

That led Jordan, which borders Israel, to delay granting permission for the departure of a non-public jet that was ready there to take Mr. Netanyahu to the Emirates. By the point permission got here via, it was too late and Mr. Netanyahu needed to cancel the journey.

Mr. Netanyahu mentioned later that day that the go to had been delay “because of misunderstandings and difficulties in coordinating our flights” that stemmed from the disagreement with Jordan. He mentioned that he had spoken with the “nice chief of the U.A.E.” and that the go to could be rescheduled very quickly.

Mr. Netanyahu informed Israel’s Military Radio final week that his go to to Abu Dhabi had been postponed a number of instances over the previous few months “because of the lockdowns and different causes.”

However he made issues worse by publicly boasting after his name with Prince Mohammed that the Emirates meant to take a position “the huge sum of $10 billion” in numerous tasks in Israel.

“It grew to become clear to Prince Mohammed that Netanyahu was simply utilizing him for electoral functions,” mentioned Martin S. Indyk, a distinguished fellow on the Council on Overseas Relations who was previously a particular envoy for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

The Emiratis threw apart their normal discretion and made no secret of their displeasure.

“From the UAE’s perspective, the aim of the Abrahamic Accords is to supply a sturdy strategic basis to foster peace and prosperity with the State of Israel and within the wider area,” Anwar Gargash, who served till final month because the Emirates’ minister of state for international affairs and who’s now an adviser to the nation’s president, wrote on Twitter.

“The UAE is not going to be an element in any inner electioneering in Israel, now or ever,” he added.

Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, the Emirati minister of trade and superior know-how, informed The Nation, an Emirati newspaper, final week that the Emiratis have been nonetheless inspecting funding prospects however that they’d be “commercially pushed and never politically related.” The nation is “at a really early stage in finding out the legal guidelines and insurance policies in Israel,” he mentioned.

Mr. Netanyahu’s aborted push to go to the Emirates earlier than the Israeli election on Tuesday additionally upended a plan for the Arab nation to host an Abraham Accords summit assembly in April, in line with a person who had been briefed on the small print of the episode.

That gathering would have assembled Mr. Netanyahu, leaders of the Emirates and of Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan — the opposite nations with which Israel signed normalization offers in latest months — and Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken.

Mr. Indyk described Mr. Netanyahu’s relationships with Prince Mohammed of the U.A.E. and King Abdullah II of Jordan as “damaged” and in want of mending.

Within the first heady months after the deal between Israel and the Emirates, Israeli tech executives and vacationers flooded into Dubai, one of many seven emirates that make up the nation, regardless of pandemic restrictions. Now, analysts mentioned, the honeymoon is over although there was no indication the normalization deal is in peril of collapse.

The connection is actually “on maintain,” mentioned Oded Eran, a senior analysis fellow on the Institute for Nationwide Safety Research in Tel Aviv and a former Israeli ambassador to the European Union and Jordan.

Past Mr. Netanyahu’s electioneering, Mr. Eran mentioned, the Emiratis have been upset as a result of as a part of the normalization deal, Israel dropped its opposition to the Emiratis’ shopping for F-35 fighter jets and different superior weaponry from the USA, however that transaction is now stalled and below evaluate by the Biden administration.

As well as, he mentioned, the Emirati leaders have been involved about what would possibly occur after the election in Israel. Mr. Netanyahu has mentioned his objective is to type a right-wing coalition with events that put a precedence on annexing West Financial institution territory in a method or one other.

“They aren’t canceling the deal, however they don’t need extra at this level,” Mr. Eran mentioned of the Emiratis. “They need to see what the agenda of the brand new authorities will probably be.”

Mr. Netanyahu’s political opponents have seized upon the diplomatic debacle.

“Sadly, Netanyahu’s conduct lately has finished important harm to our relationships with Jordan, inflicting Israel to lose appreciable defensive, diplomatic and financial property,” mentioned Benny Gantz, the Israeli protection minister and a centrist political rival.

“I’ll personally work alongside your entire Israeli protection institution to proceed strengthening our relationship with Jordan,” he added, “whereas additionally deepening ties with different nations within the area.”

Mr. Netanyahu has mentioned that 4 extra nations are ready to signal normalization agreements with Israel, with out specifying which of them.


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