Israel’s Foreign Ministry issued a strong denial Sunday night over a report that the United Arab Emirates had announced its intention to stop the purchase of defense systems from Israel. The UAE was the first Gulf state to sign the historic Abraham Accords with Israel in 2020.
בניגוד לפרסום הערב, היחסים בין ישראל לאיחוד האמירויות חזקים ואיתנים.
עדות לכך היא, בין היתר, ההסכמה שהושגה בימים האחרונים על נוסח הסכם המכס, שיוביל לכניסתו לתוקף של הסכם הסחר החופשי בין המדינות וירחיב את היחסים הכלכליים, המסחריים והמדיניים בין ישראל לאיחוד האמירויות.
— משרד החוץ (@IsraelHebrew) March 12, 2023
According to the unconfirmed report by Israel’s Channel 12 News, the UAE decided to suspend “certain military purchases” from Israel due to “recent Netanyahu government actions and statements,” the news outlet said.
“Until we make sure that Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu has a government that he controls, we will not be able to carry out joint projects,” UAE President and Abu Dhabi ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al Nahyan allegedly said in his statement.
Within minutes of the report, however, the Prime Minister’s Office in Israel had already issued a firm denial.
“The report is baseless. Israel and the United Arab Emirates are holding productive diplomatic contacts in all areas, including today,” the PMO said.
“Contrary to this evening’s report, relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates are strong and stable,” Israel’s foreign ministry insisted in a follow up statement.
“Evidence of this is, among other things, the agreement reached in recent days on the text of an agreement on customs, which will lead to the start of a free trade agreement between the two countries, and expand the economic, commercial and political relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates,” the foreign ministry added.
The move allegedly came in response to a recent visit by National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir to the Temple Mount, and a controversial statement about the Palestinian Authority town of Huwara by Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, who later walked back the remark.
Prime Minister’s Office: “The report is without any basis, Israel and the UAE maintain fruitful political relations in all fields, including today.”
— Neri Zilber (@NeriZilber) March 12, 2023
Ben Gvir, who has been a regular visitor to the Temple Mount for years, simply continued his regular routine after taking office earlier this year. But as a government minister, Ben Gvir’s visits to the Temple Mount have attracted far more attention – and opposition.
Following a deadly terror attack in which two Israeli brothers were murdered in cold blood as they stood in traffic in Huwara – and a subsequent riot in the town by Israeli protesters who torched multiple homes and businesses in retaliation – Smotrich retweeted a remark by a local official saying the town should be wiped out.
He later qualified the remark, emphasizing that his statement, issued while in an emotional state, was not intended to be taken literally. Nevertheless, his remark was roundly condemned by the United States, Egypt, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates.