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


JERUSALEM — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel presents himself as a world chief who’s in a unique league than his rivals — one who can maintain Israel secure and promote its pursuits on the world stage. But strains in his relations with two essential 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, despite the fact that their international locations have had diplomatic relations for many years, and not too long ago took a flip for the more serious. 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 be aware into the budding relationship between the 2 international locations.

Senior Emirati officers despatched clear indicators 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 all the time portrayed himself as the one candidate who can shield Israel’s safety and guarantee its survival in what has largely 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 in opposition to Iranian ambitions within the area.

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

The first indicators of hassle 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 generally known as the Abraham Accords and which was a signature international coverage achievement of the Trump administration.

Mr. Netanyahu was purported 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. But the plan went awry amid a separate diplomatic spat with Jordan, one of many first Arab international locations 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 — one in all 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 personal jet that was ready there to take Mr. Netanyahu to the Emirates. By the time permission got here by, it was too late and Mr. Netanyahu needed to cancel the journey.

Mr. Netanyahu stated later that day that the go to had been postpone “due to misunderstandings and difficulties in coordinating our flights” that stemmed from the disagreement with Jordan. He stated that he had spoken with the “great leader of the U.A.E.” and that the go to could be rescheduled very quickly.

Mr. Netanyahu instructed Israel’s Army Radio final week that his go to to Abu Dhabi had been postponed a number of occasions over the previous few months “due to the lockdowns and other reasons.”

But he made issues worse by publicly boasting after his name with Prince Mohammed that the Emirates meant to speculate “the vast sum of $10 billion” in varied tasks in Israel.

“It became clear to Prince Mohammed that Netanyahu was just using him for electoral purposes,” stated Martin S. Indyk, a distinguished fellow on the Council on Foreign Relations who was previously a particular envoy for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

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

“From the UAE’s perspective, the purpose of the Abrahamic Accords is to provide a robust strategic foundation to foster peace and prosperity with the State of Israel and in the wider region,” 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 will not be a part in any internal electioneering in Israel, now or ever,” he added.

Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, the Emirati minister of trade and superior know-how, instructed The Nation, an Emirati newspaper, final week that the Emiratis have been nonetheless inspecting funding prospects however that they might be “commercially driven and not politically associated.” The nation is “at a very early stage in studying the laws and policies in Israel,” he stated.

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 response to 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 international locations 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 “broken” and in want of mending.

In the primary 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 stated, the honeymoon is over despite the fact that there was no indication the normalization deal is at risk of collapse.

The relationship is basically “on hold,” stated Oded Eran, a senior analysis fellow on the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv and a former Israeli ambassador to the European Union and Jordan.

Beyond Mr. Netanyahu’s electioneering, Mr. Eran stated, 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 United States, however that transaction is now stalled and underneath evaluation by the Biden administration.

In addition, he stated, the Emirati leaders have been involved about what may occur after the election in Israel. Mr. Netanyahu has stated his aim is to kind a right-wing coalition with events that put a precedence on annexing West Bank territory in a method or one other.

“They are not canceling the deal, but they don’t want more at this point,” Mr. Eran stated of the Emiratis. “They want to see what the agenda of the new government will be.”

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

“Unfortunately, Netanyahu’s conduct in recent years has done significant damage to our relations with Jordan, causing Israel to lose considerable defensive, diplomatic and economic assets,” stated Benny Gantz, the Israeli protection minister and a centrist political rival.

“I will personally work alongside the entire Israeli defense establishment to continue strengthening our relationship with Jordan,” he added, “while also deepening ties with other countries in the region.”

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





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