Pardon the stereotyping but it’s a little like making gefilte fish out of spoiled herring. Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, in a fight for his political survival had planned and publicized the first trip ever by an Israeli leader to Dubai, capital of the United Arab Emirates. It was a way to demonstrate the significance of the so-called Abraham Accord, which opened the door to normal civil, social and economic relations among Israel, the UAE, Bahrain and Sudan.
The reason for the cancellation was the punchline of that old joke, “you can’t get there from here.” Netanyahu couldn’t fly to the UAE because his plan to fly from Jordan to Dubai was scuttled by Jordan’s King Abdullah II, the alternate route flying from Israel over Saudi Arabia was declared unsafe, because Houthis in northern Yemen have been stitching that airspace with missiles and weaponized drones.
Thus, the cancellation effectively demonstrated the limited impact of the Abraham Accords, a peace agreement among four small states not at war, operating in a region full of violent conflicts involving larger and richer states that the Accord countries — separately and together — cannot influence, but must acknowledge.
But Netanyahu is not the longest-serving PM in Israeli history for nothing. The snub from Jordan, underscored by leaked news that King Abdullah and Netanyahu — next-door national neighbors — had spoken only twice in the last three years drew a typical Netanyahu diplomatic response, at once safe and self-interested. The Israeli government suddenly authorized a targeted COVID-19 vaccination drive for 700 Jordanian workers employed in hotels in the coastal resort city of Eilat. The workers couldn’t work, and the hotels, were starting to need them, especially as Israel’s vaccination drive for its own citizens restarted the market for beach vacations.
And as for the denial of the Saudi detour, that was due to the Yemeni Houthis and their ally Iran. For which, blame has been decisively cast in harsh Netanyahu rhetoric and a fresh round of air attacks on Iranian bases in Syria. A reminder, if any Israeli voters needed it, that in Bibi’s political hand, national security has always been his strong suit.
Just what a candidate would want to wear on the days before Election Day. Especially when the air attacks on Iran-supported ground forces and violent exchanges with the Iranian enemy at sea keep the news cycle filled with pictures of Netanyahu as a “war-time” prime minister…you know, the kind you’d be crazy to dump in a crisis.
Josef Federman has been the Associated Press Bureau Chief in Jerusalem since 2014.
Federman had written about and helped direct coverage of Israel, the West Bank and Gaza in his previous role as Jerusalem news editor.
Federman joined the AP as an editor on the international desk in New York in 1993, transferred to Charleston, West Virginia, the following year and returned to the international desk in 1995.
A native of Westborough, Massachusetts, Federman worked as an editor at The Wall Street Journal from 2000 to 2003 before returning to AP as a correspondent in the Jerusalem bureau. He was named news editor in 2006.
Federman has been a chairman of the local Foreign Press Association, an organization that promotes press freedom and safety in Israel and the Palestinian areas. He also has covered assignments in Rome, the Hague, the United Nations, Washington and Cairo and has appeared on U.S. and Israeli media.