Netanyahu 'secretly met' MbZ in the UAE in 2018
Netanyahu made the secret visit along with the head of Mossad, Yossi Cohen, as part of efforts to normalise ties between the two countries, the newspaper said on Tuesday, with a pact establishing official ties announced last month.
The meeting between the officials was positive, the report added, quoting anonymous diplomatic sources that confirmed that communication between Netanyahu and MbZ continued beyond 2018.
The sources said that a similar meeting took place in Washington one year ago in the presence of a UAE, US and Israeli delegation - the last of which was headed by Israel’s National Security Council Meir Ben Shabbat.
Netanyahu’s office refused to comment on the alleged secret 2018 meeting with the Emirati royal, Ynet News added.
The report came just days after Netanyahy confirmed that Israel had held secret talks with leaders from several Arab countries.
"There are many more unpublicised meetings with Arab and Muslim leaders," Netanyahu said ahead of the dubbed "historic" Tel Aviv to Abu Dhabi flight led by US President Donald Trump's senior advisor Jared Kushner.
These Arab leaders "recognise that their true interests are to normalise relations with Israel", the Israeli PM said.
A US and Israeli delegation arrived in the UAE on an El Al plane on Monday in the first-ever direct commercial passenger flight between the two countries. The flight followed an agreement brokered by the Trump administration last month that saw the two countries establish diplomatic relations.
The UAE has touted the normalisation deal as a tool to force Israel into halting its contentious plan to annex parts of the West Bank sought by the Palestinians for their future state, although Netanyahu said the plans are only on hold.
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It also may help the Emiratis acquire advanced US weapons systems that have been previously unattainable, such as the F-35 fighter jet. Currently, Israel is the only country in the region with the stealth warplanes.
The Palestinians, however, have fiercely opposed the normalisation as peeling away one of their few advantages in moribund peace talks with Israel. Palestinians have held public protests and burned the UAE flag in anger.