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Netanyahu reportedly postpones UAE trip following Ben Gvir's controversial Temple Mount visit

When Netanyahu previously served as prime minister, he canceled planned trips to the UAE four times

Then-opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu meets with UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed in Tel Aviv, Sept. 16, 2022. (Photo: Benjamin Netanyahu/Twitter)

Updated at 7:18 p.m. Israel time.

Israeli Channel 12 reported on Tuesday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided to delay his trip to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) which had originally been planned for next week.

Announcement of the postponement came following National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir's visit on the Temple Mount early Tuesday morning, which drew condemnation from around the world, including from the UAE.

The Prime Minister’s Office had announced on Monday that Netanyahu was planning his first official visit to the UAE in coordination with the Emirati government.

On Saturday, UAE President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan called Netanyahu to congratulate him after the swearing-in of the Israeli government.

“His Highness expressed his aspirations to further strengthen ties between the two countries across all fields, with a particular focus on matters of development, as well as advance the path of partnership and peace forward for the benefit of peoples of the two nations and the broader region,” the official Emirates News Agency (WAM) reported.

The last time Netanyahu served as prime minister, he canceled planned trips to the UAE four times. He was set to visit the UAE after the Abraham Accords but the trip was repeatedly delayed due to the pandemic, scheduling issues and internal political crises.

The last time a UAE trip was planned for Netanyahu was in March 2021, near the end of his previous stint as prime minister. He was forced to cancel when the Jordanian government delayed approving his flight path.

Last June, Israel’s then-Prime Minister Naftali Bennett flew to Abu Dhabi for meetings about the conflict with Iran, and UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan visited Israel last September to mark the two-year anniversary of the Abraham Accords. The foreign minister met with Israel’s then-Prime Minister Yair Lapid, as well as with Netanyahu, who was head of the opposition. Israeli President Isaac Herzog also visited the UAE this December.

In his interview last week with American journalist Bari Weiss on her Common Sense podcast, Netanyahu told Weiss, “My first trip, I decided, will be to the United Arab Emirates, as a signal of my seriousness to expanding the peace.”

While attending a celebration of the UAE’s national day at the Emirati Embassy in Tel Aviv last week, Netanyahu noted, “The Abraham Accords are not just a piece of paper between governments. They are a warm peace between our people that strengthens security, cooperation and stability in the region.”

The Israeli prime minister is aware that the radical makeup of his new government could hinder Israel’s foreign policy.

Prior to last year’s election, the UAE warned Netanyahu about including far-right lawmakers Itamar Ben Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich in his new government. However, it apparently changed its stance once the election results were final.

Although convicted in the past on terror charges, Ben Gvir claimed he has become more moderate in recent years. He was convicted of incitement to racism in 2007 for holding a sign at a protest reading: “Expel the Arab enemy.” 

“When I was a young man I believed that we should kick out all the Arabs from this land. I thought they all were the same and that we have to get them out of here,” Ben Gvir told journalists at the Christian Media Summit in December. “I was 17. Today I am 46, I have six children, I learned law, opened a law office and I became a Knesset member.”

Smotrich has long advocated for massively expanding settlements and for annexing large parts of Judea and Samaria, without granting the rights enjoyed by Israeli citizens to non-Israeli Palestinians in those areas.

The UAE jumpstarted the Abraham Accords in 2020 in return for a promise by Netanyahu’s government to not move ahead with the planned annexation of large portions of these disputed territories (including large developed Israeli cities, like Ma'ale Adumim, which registered a population of 38,155 residents in 2015).

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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