Bennett Says UAE Leader Accepted Invitation to Visit Israel

ABU DUBAI (Reuters) -
Prime Minister Naftali meeting with UAE Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology Dr. Sultan bin Ahmed Al Jaber, in Abu Dhabi on Monday. (Haim Zach/GPO)

Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan has accepted Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s invitation to visit Israel, the PM’s office said on Monday.

However, there was no immediate confirmation from UAE officials.

Also on Monday, the UAE’s state news agency WAM said that the countries plan to establish a joint research and development fund,

The fund “will harness the leading economic and technological minds in the UAE and Israel, tasking them with finding solutions to challenges such as climate change, desertification and clean energy,” said a joint statement.

While Iran was known to be high on the agenda of several hours of discussions, Israeli Ambassador Amir Hayek declined to elaborate, but he told Army Radio: “The prime minister did not only come here solely to address the Iranian issue.”

“Israel is in cooperation with a new friend, with a partner for the long-term, and the considerations will be both considerations of defense and also considerations of how you work with a country which is very, very, very friendly to Israel,” Hayek said.

Bennett said he told his government to step up efforts to reach a free trade agreement with the United Arab Emirates by the first quarter of 2022.

Israel-UAE bilateral trade in goods alone reached nearly $500 million so far in 2021 – up from $125 million in 2020 – and is expected to continue growing rapidly.