Transportation Minister Miri Regev made a surprising statement on Wednesday at the Israel Lands Authority conference, after praising the United Arab Emirates, and then saying, "I was in Dubai - I'm not going back there, I don't like the place."
Regev made the comment while trying to compliment the UAE on its public transportation system which, she said, was established "in only six years."
Foreign Minister Eli Cohen was later required to issue a clarification on Regev’s remarks, stating that "In the past two years, I visited Dubai four times - twice as part of official delegations, and twice out of personal choice.”
“Dubai is a wonderful place to visit,” he added, “and as proof of that over one million Israelis chose to travel there in the last two years. Our relationship with Dubai and the UAE is a strategic one and we will work to strengthen it via tourism and other cooperations between the two countries." Cohen added in a tweet: "I❤️Dubai."
Regev later posed a statement, claiming that she "loves Dubai" and that her words were taken out of context.
"I praised Dubai for establishing a developed, beautiful country in just six years," she said. "I bring them up as an example in every meeting with infrastructure companies in Israel. Everything else was said with humor, which the media intentionally didn’t convey."
In her social media post, Regev was seen on the phone in an alleged conversation with the Emirati ambassador to Israel Mohamed Al Khaja, whom she said extended yet another invitation for her to visit.
"The effort to create conflict between the countries turned into an invitation for another visit," she said.
Regev visited Dubai in January, where she attended a Beyoncé concert, among other things. In October 2018, before normalization with the United Arab Emirates, Regev visited Abu Dhabi as the Culture and Sports Minister as part of the Israeli Judo team's trip to the Grand Slam. She was photographed there at a mosque and was seen crying during the national anthem.
According to reports earlier this month, the United Arab Emirates had halted the purchase of sensitive security systems from Israel, in protest of statements made by Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich and National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir. Israel denied the report, but some officials said there was cause for concern.
The UAE expressed its concern over the two far-right ministers and the massive protests against the government's legislative push to overhaul the judiciary. The Gulf nation is also observing the renewed ties between Saudi Arabia and Iran which will no doubt have an effect on the entire region.
Strategically, they may indeed be looking at their relationship with Israel more cautiously. Netanyahu, after winning the elections, wanted his first diplomatic visit abroad to be to Abu Dhabi - but the visit was canceled after Ben-Gvir toured Temple Mount. No later date was scheduled.