Israeli opposition leader Avi Gabbay 'secretly visited UAE in December'

Israeli opposition leader Avi Gabbay 'secretly visited UAE in December'
Channel 10 said the visit was the latest in a series of diplomatic meetings Gabbay held with Arab officials over the past year
2 min read
08 January, 2019
Avi Gabbay is leader of Israel's main left-wing opposition party [Getty]

The leader of Israel's main opposition party secretly visited the UAE between 2 and 4 December, where he met with senior Emirati officials in Abu Dhabi, a report on Israel's Channel 10 said on Monday.

Labor Party leader Avi Gabbay discussed regional topics of interest to both Israel and the UAE, including Iran, the so-called Deal of the Century for peace in the Middle East and even Israeli domestic politics with three senior Emirati officials, according to the report aired Monday evening.

Gabbay met Emirati ministers or higher-ranking officials, but they were not named in the report.

He travelled to the Gulf state by commercial carrier via Amman, Jordan according to the report.

Gabbay was accompanied on the three-day visit by journalist-turned-politician Henrique Cymerman, a Portuguese-Israeli expert on Arab affairs.

Channel 10 said the visit was the latest in a series of diplomatic meetings Gabbay has held with Arab officials over the past year, not all of which have been reported. 

According to Israeli media, the visit was coordinated via a Moroccan national who has ties with senior Emirati officials and has previously arranged other meetings for Gabbay with senior Arab officials.

Upon returning to Israel, Gabbay met with Yossi Cohen, head of the Mossad spy agency, to brief him on the content of his meetings, according to the report.

Commenting to Israeli website Arutz Sheva, the opposition leader's office said: "Gabbay is very much engaged in the diplomatic issue and has a detailed plan for renewing the negotiations on the basis of a series of confidence-building measures, both with the Palestinians and with other Arab countries".

The visit comes ahead of a planned election in Israel and allegations of corruption surrounding current right-wing Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

Unlike Netanyahu, Gabbay supports returning to the two-state solution envisioned in the Oslo Accords, and has suggested unilaterally withdrawing from the West Bank early last year.

The UAE, like most Arab countries, does not have official diplomatic ties with Israel.

Gulf states - in particular the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain - are becoming more open about their relations with Israel as they find common cause against mutual foe Iran.

In October, Israel's minister of sport and culture Miri Regev travelled to the United Arab Emirates, where athletes have been allowed to compete under the Jewish state's flag for the first time.

It was the first time an Israeli minister made an official visit to the UAE.