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Israel leader Netanyahu 'met with UAE, Bahrain envoys to US'

Netanyahu frequently boasts of growing, discreet cooperation with moderate Arab countries [Getty]

Date of publication: 13 May, 2018

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Israel's prime minister held an impromptu meeting with the Emirati and Bahraini ambassadors to the United States, The Associated Press reported on Saturday.

Israel's prime minister held an impromptu meeting with the Emirati and Bahraini ambassadors to the United States, The Associated Press reported on Saturday.

Binyamin Netanyahu met with Yousef al-Otaiba and Sheikh Abdullah bin Rashed Al Khalifa in March at an upscale restaurant in the US capital, the news agency said, citing six people who either attended the dinner or were briefed on it.

The sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, explained the unplanned meeting took place at the restaurant while the Israeli leader was in Washington to attend an annual pro-Israel conference.

"By coincidence, Otaiba, was at the restaurant hosting Brian Hook, the State Department's policy planning chief, and a group of US journalists, along with Bahrain's ambassador," the report said.

"The Americans dining with Otaiba got wind that Netanyahu was nearby. Word was sent to see if the Israeli would mind making an appearance at their dinner.

"It wasn't long before Netanyahu and his wife came over to say hello on their way out. They lingered, answering a few questions from the group about Iran and other issues. There were smiles, a few laughs about the oddity of the situation, and Netanyahu shook hands with the two ambassadors before leaving the restaurant," it added.

The incident is the latest in a series showing the quiet ties between Israel and Gulf states that are increasingly coming out in the open as they find common cause against mutual foe Iran.

Netanyahu frequently boasts of growing, discreet cooperation with moderate Arab countries.

Though he does not identify them by name, they have long been believed to be Sunni Gulf countries such as the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

The Saudis recently broke a decades-old practice and agreed to allow Indian flights to Israel to pass through Saudi airspace, cutting the trip by several hours.

The Saudi crown prince, Mohammad Bin Salman, met with pro-Israel Jewish American leaders during his recent high-profile trip to the US, during which he was quoted as criticising the Palestinians.

Israeli businessmen quietly operate in the UAE. The Emirati Embassy in Washington is planning an interfaith Iftar - the meal eaten by Muslims to break the Ramadan fast - that will include a US rabbi.

Bahrain's foreign minister, Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, stunned Israelis and Arabs this past week when he tweeted support for Israel's self-defence after Israel retaliated to an Iranian rocket barrage by attacking suspected Iranian targets in Syria.

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