Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met Monday in Abu Dhabi with UAE strongman Mohammed bin Zayed, a historic meeting that marks a "new reality" in the region.
Trade relations were the focus of talks on the second day of Bennet's visit. He is the first head of the Israeli government to visit an Arab Gulf monarchy. The move came as the Jewish state pushed for sanctions against Iran, which is Israel's sworn enemy, but on the other hand, a key Emirati economic partner.
Bennett was received by Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed in his private palace, where they talked for more than four hours, according to Israeli officials. Mohammed bin Zayed "expressed the hope that this visit will contribute to positive developments in (bilateral) cooperation," according to the official Emirates news agency WAM.
The two men discussed "ways to work together" in "investment, economy, trade and development, mainly in agriculture, food security, renewable energy, high technology and health," according to the WAM.
Speaking to WAM, Bennett spoke of a "new reality" in the region. In a video released by the Israeli prime minister's office at the end of his visit, Bennett welcomed the "direct, thorough and relevant talks" on our two countries, our region, our economy, our technologies and what "we can do it together".
"I'm going back to Israel with an optimistic feeling that this relationship (with the Emirates) can be an example of how we can make peace here in the Middle East," he added.
Bennett's visit to Abu Dhabi took place more than a year after the signing of an agreement to normalize relations between the two countries on September 15, 2020. Bahrain had signed a similar agreement on the same day and the two countries became the first Arab monarchies in the Gulf that publicly normalized their relations with Israel.
Since then, the Emirates and the Jewish state have concluded trade agreements in various fields. "The Emirati people are interested in Bennett's experience in high technology and business, as well as in Israeli innovation in general," said a source inside the Israeli delegation.
Beyond the economy, the issue of Iran's nuclear program raises common concerns in Israel and its new Gulf partners.