Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has become the first Israeli leader to visit the United Arab Emirates. Naftali Bennett is working to improve relations with Gulf countries, including the United Arab Emirates, in the face of growing tensions with Iran.
A year after the resumption of diplomatic relations between the United Arab Emirates and Israel, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Raed of Abu Dhabi has met with the Israeli Prime Minister.
The Israeli prime minister said he wanted to boost economic and trade ties between the two countries.
He is also expected to urge the UAE to take a tougher line on Iran's nuclear program. The United Arab Emirates, like Israel, has concerns about Iran's nuclear program, but also seeks better relations with Tehran.
Last year, the UAE became the third Arab country to fully recognize Israel after US intervention.
Since then, the two countries have sent ambassadors to each other's countries, and signed trade agreements worth millions of dollars, including agreements on defense equipment and weapons.
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Last week, the UAE's security adviser and Sheikh Mohammed's brother, Tahnoon bin Ziad, met with Iranian President Ibrahim Rassoul.
Sheikh Tahnoon had said that he hoped that his visit would be a turning point in the relations between the two countries.
In the past, the UAE has taken a tougher line on Iran. Along with Israel, the UAE also backed then-US President Trump's decision in 2018 to pull out of the nuclear deal with Iran.
Under the agreement, economic sanctions against Iran were eased in exchange for limiting its nuclear program.
Since the United States pulled out of the deal and President Trump's full lifting of sanctions, Iran has begun to enrich uranium beyond the agreement.
Iran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, but is currently enriching uranium to a level close to that required to make a nuclear bomb.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has said that in Vienna, where world powers are trying to bring the United States back into the deal, Iran is using nuclear blackmail as a tactic in negotiations. He wants US President Biden to end the talks and take action against Iran, including tougher economic sanctions and possible military strikes.
The UAE has opposed such measures and wants to reduce tensions with Iran.
Why are Israel and Arab countries making friends?
Last year, when the whole world was engulfed in the Corona epidemic, efforts are underway to create a new future in the Middle East. At the time, US President Donald Trump was at the center of that effort.
On September 15, 2020, a high-level Israeli delegation signed a peace agreement with the United Arab Emirates. The melting of the ice between the enemies of seven decades was unbelievable news to many.
The Bahraini Foreign Minister also attended the signing ceremony. Bahrain later agreed to restore diplomatic relations with Israel.
Since then, some other Gulf states have extended a hand of friendship to Israel. After the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan also established diplomatic relations with Israel.
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The UAE believes that if relations with Israel are strengthened, all these sophisticated weapons can be obtained from the United States. The UAE forces are stationed in the civil war in Libya and Yemen, but its biggest and most powerful enemy is Iran, a Shiite-majority country in the Persian Gulf.
Punk Ranjan Chakraborty, a retired Indian Foreign Service officer who has worked in Cairo, Jeddah, Riyadh and Tel Aviv. Ranjan Chakraborty, an expert on Gulf politics and diplomatic strategy, says the UAE is a determined country under its current ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
So will the initiative in relations with Israel increase the importance of the UAE in the Gulf region?
"Sheikh Zayed is a visionary leader," says Punk Chakraborty. He has announced to invest in Indian-administered Kashmir. But many countries did not like his move. Interestingly, Saudi Arabia also supports the UAE in improving relations with Israel.
Harinder Mishra, an Indian journalist living in the Israeli capital, Tel Aviv, says Iran's nuclear program is bringing the Gulf states and Israel closer together, but it is also an economic opportunity for both Israel and the UAE.
Harinder Mishra from Tel Aviv: "I spoke to Israelis returning from a holiday in the Gulf for the first time since the agreement was signed in September 2020. He says he sees a lot of business opportunities there. There is a lot of excitement about economic relations.
Punk Chakraborty says the tide is turning in the Middle East. Experts also say that Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain also agree on relations with Israel.
If the tide is turning, what is the role of Saudi Arabia, the most powerful and influential country in the Gulf?
Iran is also concerned about Saudi Arabia's role in Yemen's civil war. Iran's aid is reaching Houthi rebels in Yemen. Analysts believe that Saudi Arabia has a role to play in the changes taking place in the Middle East.
What will Israel gain by improving relations with the Gulf countries? Israel's relations with Egypt and Jordan have existed since 1979, but they have never been so warm.
Strong rhetoric on the Palestinian issue has often come to the fore. This new beginning is a milestone for Israel, which has been isolated for decades, seeking friends throughout the region.
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Jeremy Bowen says: "Israel considers Iran its number one enemy. Netanyahu (former Israeli prime minister) has repeatedly compared Iran to the Nazis.
Analysts also agree that Iran is a key factor in the closeness between Israel and the Gulf states. "Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Israel are all concerned about Iran's nuclear weapons," said Chakraborty.
Israel also opposes nuclear talks with Iran in Vienna. Israel says Iran has gone so far in its nuclear program that there is no justification for such talks.
But Israel also sees a market for its economy in the UAE. Harinder Mishra, a journalist living in Israel, said relations between the UAE and Israel and the current visit of the Prime Minister to Israel were politically and economically important.
"The decision by the UAE to establish diplomatic relations with Israel was a surprise," he said. Then there are relations with some other countries. Israel's greatest advantage is that its regional isolation is now over. Relations with Jordan and Egypt have been there before, but they have not been warm.
Prior to the agreement reached in September 2020, no Israeli aircraft could fly over any country's airspace in the Gulf. But every day in the past year, many flights have been diverted from Israel to busy airports such as Dubai.
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