Tensions With Arab Allies Undermine a Netanyahu Pitch to Israeli Voters
JERUSALEM — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel presents himself as a international chief who’s in a totally different league than his rivals — one who can preserve Israel secure and promote its pursuits on the world stage. However strains in his relations with two necessary 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, though 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 earlier than the close-fought election on Tuesday have injected a bitter word into the budding relationship between the 2 international locations.
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 all the time 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 defending Israel’s borders and as a buttress in opposition to Iranian ambitions within the area.
However the tensions with Jordan and the U.A.E. 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 expenses.
The primary 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 settlement final 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 that was a signature international coverage achievement of the Trump administration.
Mr. Netanyahu was supposed 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 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 — certainly 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 by, it was too late and Mr. Netanyahu had 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 “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 “due to the lockdowns and different causes.”
However he made issues worse by publicly boasting after his name with Prince Mohammed that the Emirates meant to make investments “the huge sum of $10 billion” in numerous tasks in Israel.
“It turned clear to Prince Mohammed that Netanyahu was simply utilizing him for electoral functions,” stated Martin S. Indyk, a distinguished fellow on the Council on International Relations who was previously a particular envoy for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
The Emiratis threw apart their traditional discretion and made no secret of their displeasure.
“From the UAE’s perspective, the aim of the Abrahamic Accords is to present a strong 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 won’t be a half 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 very early stage in finding out the legal guidelines and insurance 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 accordance 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 current 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 stated, the honeymoon is over though there was no indication the normalization deal is in peril of collapse.
The connection is actually “on maintain,” stated 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 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 america, however that transaction is now stalled and beneath overview by the Biden administration.
As well as, he stated, the Emirati leaders have been involved about what would possibly occur after the election in Israel. Mr. Netanyahu has stated his aim is to type a right-wing coalition with events that put a precedence on annexing West Financial institution territory in a technique or one other.
“They don’t seem to be canceling the deal, however they don’t need extra at this level,” Mr. Eran stated of the Emiratis. “They need to see what the agenda of the brand new authorities shall be.”
Mr. Netanyahu’s political opponents have seized upon the diplomatic debacle.
“Sadly, Netanyahu’s conduct in recent times has executed vital injury to our relationships with Jordan, inflicting Israel to lose appreciable defensive, diplomatic and financial belongings,” stated Benny Gantz, the Israeli protection minister and a centrist political rival.
“I’ll personally work alongside all the Israeli protection institution to proceed strengthening our relationship with Jordan,” he added, “whereas additionally deepening ties with different international locations within the area.”
Mr. Netanyahu has stated that 4 extra international locations have been ready to signal normalization agreements with Israel, with out specifying which of them.
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