Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will visit the United Arab Emirates in 2023, said Israel’s Ambassador to India, Naor Gilon, in New Delhi on December 15, 2022. Addressing a meeting organised as part of the 15th India-Israel Forum hosted by the Ananta Aspen Centre, the envoy described technology as the foundation for the future and mentioned the I2U2 arrangement consisting of India, Israel, UAE and the United States as a grouping that will help the people of the member countries as well as the world.
“Prime Minister Netanyahu will visit UAE next year. The issue of Palestine is there but it is no longer the defining matter,” Mr. Gilon, interacting with the press after the event. He also mentioned that Mr. Netanyahu will visit India next year, after visiting the UAE. The envoy’s information is an indicator that Israel-UAE relations will be prominent in India’s extended neighbourhood in West Asia.
The Ambassador’s remarks describing Palestine as not being of central importance is interesting as it stands in contrast against the relation between the UAE and the Palestinian Authority, which has an Embassy in UAE but not an Ambassador at present because of bilateral tensions over the UAE’s alleged support to former Fatah security chief Mohammed Dahlan.
The UAE has emerged as a major partner of India in the recent years and the two sides signed a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (FTA) earlier this year. The UAE did not have formal diplomatic relations with Israel since its foundation in 1948 mainly because of its solidarity with the Palestine cause but that began to change on August 13, 2020 when the UAE announced that it would establish full diplomatic relation with Israel and start direct airline links with Tel Aviv and establish Embassies. This trend was followed by another Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member — Bahrain — which also announced that it would normalise relations with Tel Aviv.
The UAE-Israel normalisation of ties came a year before India and Israel began marking the 30th anniversary of formal bilateral ties that began in 1992 during the Prime Ministership of P.V. Narasimha Rao and the three nations — UAE, India and Israel — were joined by the United States to form the I2U2 regional venture, which held its first leaders’ summit in July 2022.
A visit by the Prime Minister of Israel to the UAE will be historic as it will be the first such visit by the leader of Israel to the Gulf region, which has emerged as the financial and political core of the Arab world in the recent past. It will also firm up Israel’s growing warmth towards the Sunni-Arab bloc that is facing pressure from Iran, Israel’s regional rival and a staunch supporter of the Palestine movement.
Earlier, addressing the formal part of the meeting, the Israeli envoy said Israel and India have been in talks for an FTA for almost a decade and urged that the talks should yield a result soon. “We need to settle an FTA to reach an agreement and I am hopeful that in the coming year, we should be able to do that,” Mr. Gilon said.
“Once we expose people to each other, great things will come out,” the Ambassador Gilon said, indicating that discussions on the FTA will continue in the new year.