Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said he would travel to the United Arab Emirates on Sunday, the first visit by an Israeli premier, as part of a blitz of regional diplomacy against the backdrop of struggling nuclear talks with Iran.
Israel has watched with concern as Iran has pushed a hard line against negotiators meeting in Vienna, at once demanding sanctions relief while accelerating its nuclear program. In recent weeks, Israel has dispatched its top diplomat and its defense and spy chiefs to meet allies in Europe, the U.S. and the Mideast to push for a firmer approach to Iran.
Mr. Bennett’s one-day trip to Abu Dhabi, where he will meet with Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed, is a milestone for both Israel and its new leader. Israel and the UAE last year signed a normalization deal brokered by the Trump administration under the so-called Abraham Accords, which saw similar agreements penned with Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco. Israel and the UAE have long shared common anxiety over Iran’s nuclear program. The deal to establish ties between the countries only increased tensions with the Islamic Republic.
Mr. Bennett’s office said he will be discussing “economic and regional issues that will contribute to prosperity, welfare and strengthening stability between the countries” during his meeting with bin Zayed.
Mr. 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. Several other regional political visits, by Syria’s foreign minister and the leaders of Saudi Arabia and Turkey, have also taken place recently, all with an eye on the negotiations.