Israeli minister disavows her remark that she did not like Dubai
Israel's transport minister, Miri Regev, said on Wednesday that she did not like Dubai and that she won't revisit the city, before rowing back on her statements and accusing the media of twisting them.
A member of the Likud ruling party, Regev visited Dubai in the United Arab Emirates in 2018. The two countries established diplomatic ties in a US-sponsored deal in 2020.
Regev said during a conference on Wednesday: "I’ve been to Dubai. I won’t be going back. I don’t like the place."
However, she later disavowed her statement and said it was meant to be humorous and that the media had twisted her words. Later in the afternoon, she also spoke with the UAE ambassador in Tel Aviv, Mohammed al-Khaja.
"A few minutes ago, I spoke with my friend, the ambassador of the UAE, Mohammed al-Khaja. He also understood what the media was trying to do, taking things out of context. The attempt at a conflict between [the two] countries became an invitation for another visit," she tweeted.
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Regev also posted a video of her phone call with Khaja, saying: "Thank you for the invitation. I will come to Dubai with you, and I'm waiting for you in Jerusalem in my office, so thank you, I will see you soon."
Eli Cohen, Israel's foreign minister, had to rush to control potential diplomatic damage after Regev's statements were reported.
He tweeted a photo of him shaking hands with UAE President Mohammed Bin Zayed, expressing his love for Dubai with a heart emoji, saying that so do "million Israelis who visited the United Arab Emirates in 2022".
Regev's 2018 trip to Dubai was the first state visit by an Israeli official to the UAE. She was the culture and sports minister then and attended the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam, where an Israeli judoka team competed.
Israel and the UAE's ties remain warm, despite Abu Dhabi condemning controversial remarks made by the far-right Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich on Sunday, saying that Palestinian people were "an invention".
The UAE also postponed a visit in January by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is facing widespread protests and opposition to his judicial reform plan, which critics say will give the government control of the judiciary.
Local media reported that Bin Zayed told Israeli sources: "As long as we can't be certain that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has a government that he controls, we can't cooperate."
Netanyahu dismissed the reports as "baseless".
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