Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu apparently made a secret visit to the United Arab Emirates and met with the Gulf state's leader two years before the historic peace agreement between the two countries.
A plane belonging to Israel's flag carrier El Al made history on Monday afternoon becoming the first Israeli aircraft to make a direct commercial flight from Israel to the UAE, where a joint Israeli and U.S. delegation is set to discuss the peace agreement with the Gulf state's officials. Netanyahu was not part of the delegation, headed by National Security Council (NSC) Director Meir Ben Shabatt.
Ynet's sister publication Yedioth Ahronoth has learned that Netanyahu met with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed back in 2018 during a secret visit where he was accompanied by the director of the Mossad intelligence agency, Yossi Cohen, who is said to have set up the meeting.
According to diplomatic sources, the meeting was successful and both parties kept close contact afterward.
Ben Shabatt held another meeting in Washington with UAE and U.S. officials in 2019. Sources said Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dremer was also involved in the negotiation process between the two countries.
The Prime Minister's Office refused to comment on the report, but Netanyahu said during a press conference on Monday that information about some of his meetings with Arab leaders has yet to become public.
"I meet with many many leaders in the Arab and Muslim world, more than you'd think," Netanyahu said. "There are many things I cannot tell you about, but I do believe they will see light when the time is right. You could see the tip of the iceberg for yourselves in recent years."
When asked about a report by Yedioth Ahronoth that a part of the deal between the countries will see the U.S. selling the Emirates the advanced F-35 fighter jets, the premier said the Americans have "fully committed to maintaining Israel's qualitative advantage" and that he will further consult U.S President Donald Trump.
The veteran Israeli leader also denied reports the peace deal will see his plan to extend Israeli sovereignty over Jewish settlements in the West Bank, and the strategic Jordan Valley, scrapped.
"It is not off the table. Historic things are happening here that are changing the map of the Middle East," the Likud chairman said. "Very good things are happening here, both for the State of Israel and for the Land of Israel."
Netanyahu also expressed hope he would be able to share future developments with coalition partners, Blue & White's Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, who were both left out of the peace process with the UAE.
"I hope that I will be able to update them in future agreements. During talks with the Emirates, there was an explicit request to maintain maximum confidentiality. I think I will have something to share with Gantz and Ashkenazi later because the policy I described here is maturing and brings results."