Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Cancel Anytime
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to reporters in Tel Aviv, Israel, on March 8, 2021.

Miriam Alster/The Associated Press

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called off a visit to the United Arab Emirates on Thursday, citing a diplomatic disagreement with Jordan, in an embarrassing setback for his re-election campaign just days before the vote.

Netanyahu had hoped to use the audience with the UAE’s crown prince – their first public meeting since the countries established ties last September – to boost his campaign ahead of the March 23 election. Instead, he is having to explain to the public why his trip had been called off and doing damage control to protect Israel’s fragile relationship with the Jordanians.

Netanyahu’s office said it had difficulties co-ordinating the flight over Jordanian airspace after Jordan’s crown prince cancelled a visit to the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, a sensitive holy site under Jordanian custodianship, due to disagreements over security arrangements.

Story continues below advertisement

Speaking at a news conference, Netanyahu said there had been a misunderstanding. By the time it was sorted out, he said it was too late to fly.

“I can fly through the skies of Jordan,” he said. “Until it was co-ordinated, today’s visit wasn’t possible.”

He said he had spoken by telephone to the UAE’s crown prince, Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and they agreed he would visit “very soon.” He also said the Emiratis informed him of plans to invest $10-billion in Israel.

There was no immediate comment from the UAE.

With Israel now locked in its fourth election campaign in two years, Netanyahu is once again trying to portray himself as an experienced statesman uniquely qualified to lead the country through its many diplomatic and security challenges.

One key pillar of that strategy, Netanyahu’s close ties with former President Donald Trump, is no longer relevant now that a new administration is in the White House. But Netanyahu continues to point to Israel’s agreements establishing ties with the UAE and three other Arab countries, all brokered by Trump, as among his proudest accomplishments.

Those agreements, however, have come at the expense of the Palestinians and neighbouring Jordan, which after Egypt became the second Arab country to reach peace with Israel in 1994.

Story continues below advertisement

The immediate cause of this week’s dispute stemmed from Jordan’s role as custodian of the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, the third holiest site in Islam. It is also the holiest site for Jews, who refer to it as the Temple Mount, and has long been a flashpoint for Mideast tensions.

Jordan’s Crown Prince Hussein bin Abdullah II had planned to visit the mosque to pray on the Muslim holiday marking the Prophet Muhammad’s ascension to heaven from the site. But he turned back at the border due to a disagreement with Israeli authorities over the number of armed escorts that could accompany him, Israeli media reported.

Jordan’s foreign minister, Ayman Safadi, accused Israel of changing agreed-upon arrangements “at the last minute” and forcing the crown prince to call off the visit.

“His highness decided he did not wish to disrupt this peaceful night of prayer,” Safadi said at a Paris summit. “We cannot accept Israeli interference in the affairs of Al-Aqsa.”

Oded Eran, a former Israeli ambassador to Jordan, said the spat reflected a deeper deterioration in relations in recent years.

“The major problem is there is no dialogue between the No. 1′s in Jordan and Israel, that is to say between the prime minister and the king of Jordan,” he said.

Story continues below advertisement

That lack of trust was highlighted by Israel’s plans last year to annex parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Israel suspended the annexation plan as part of its agreement to establish ties with the UAE, but Eran said the Jordanians remain deeply suspicious.

Jordan, which is home to a large Palestinian population, considers the establishment of an independent Palestinian state in the neighbouring West Bank to be a key interest, and any Israeli annexation would likely destroy any remaining hopes for Palestinian independence. Israel and the Palestinians have not held substantive peace talks in over a decade.

“At the least, they need a political process and movement toward a solution,” said Eran, now a senior researcher at the Institute for National Security Studies, a Tel Aviv think-tank. “The process itself is very important to the Jordanians and when it is not there, there are certainly concerns.”

Earlier in the day, Netanyahu’s office announced that his wife, Sara, had been hospitalized with an appendix infection. It said she would remain hospitalized for several days.

The cancelled trip and medical emergency appeared to create unwanted distractions for Netanyahu’s campaign, at least for the day. The Israeli leader has focused his campaign on his successful efforts to vaccinate the Israeli public against the coronavirus.

In a little more than two months, Israel has vaccinated some 80 per cent of its adult population, allowing authorities to begin reopening schools, stores, restaurants and museums just ahead of election day.

Story continues below advertisement

Yet opinion polls continue to show Netanyahu locked in a tight race against a crowded field of challengers. According to the projections, Netanyahu’s Likud is expected to emerge as the largest party, but without enough support from allies to form a governing majority coalition.

The UAE trip could have helped breathe life into the campaign. It also could help divert attention from Netanyahu’s ongoing corruption trial, set to resume April 5, and public anger over the economic damage caused by repeated coronavirus lockdowns over the past year.

Gideon Rahat, a political scientist at Hebrew University and senior fellow at the Israel Democracy Institute, said Netanyahu had suffered a setback on Thursday but still had time to control the agenda and set things straight.

For instance, Netanyahu might still find a way to visit the UAE before the election, Rahat said. And the vaccination campaign could help him more as the economy springs back to life.

Late Thursday, Netanyahu hosted the leaders of Hungary and the Czech Republic for talks on co-operating in their coronavirus strategies.

The Czech Republic also opened a diplomatic office in Jerusalem, lending rare support to Israel’s claims over the contested city. The Palestinians want east Jerusalem, where the Al-Aqsa Mosque is located, to be the capital of their future state. Most countries maintain their embassies in Tel Aviv because of the dispute.

Story continues below advertisement

“You can call it a bad day for Netanyahu, but not more than that,” Rahat said.

Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Globe editors, giving you a concise summary of the day’s most important headlines. Sign up today.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies