TEHRAN (FNA) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he called off his first visit to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) through Saudi Arabian airspace at the last minute because he feared Yemeni missiles; the fourth time the visit was canceled.
In an interview with Israel’s Channel 13 on Saturday, Netanyahu said he canceled his first official visit to Persian Gulf state of the UAE last week because there were “problems a week ago in the skies of Saudi Arabia”, referring to recent retaliatory missile attacks by the Yemeni forces against targets inside Saudi Arabia, the Associated Press reported on Sunday.
Netanyahu did not elaborate, nor did he say whether his plane was targeted by Yemeni forces.
Last week, neighboring Jordan temporarily closed its airspace to Netanyahu’s flight over a spat between Tel Aviv and Amman. Thus, the Israeli premier had no choice but to take a more Southerly route across Saudi skies after bypassing Jordanian airspace, meaning that his plane could fall within the reach of the Yemeni missiles.
On Thursday, officials in Netanyahu’s office claimed that the premier had been forced to call off his visit to the UAE after Jordan delayed approving his flight path over the kingdom, implying that this was the only reason behind the cancellation.
Jordan and Israel share strong security ties, but political relations have soured recently over the Israeli regime’s policies toward the occupied Jerusalem al-Quds, because King Abdullah’s Hashemite dynasty is the custodian of the Muslim holy sites in the city.
Using domestically-developed missiles, the Yemeni forces have so far launched numerous retaliatory missile strikes against targets deep inside Saudi Arabia, including the facilities of Saudi Aramco Oil Company.
Yemeni ballistic missiles have become a nightmare for the Arab kingdom, which leads a devastating war, in cahoots with its allies, against impoverished Yemen since March 2015.
Last week, the Yemeni missiles and combat drones hit one of the world’s largest oil shipping ports and suspended air traffic toward the international airport in the Saudi port city of Jeddah.
Netanyahu had been scheduled to meet the UAE Prime Minister and Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammad bin Zayed in his first official visit to the Persian Gulf state since Tel Aviv and Abu Dhabi forged diplomatic ties last year in a US-brokered deal amid strong opposition from all Palestinian factions.
Reports on Wednesday also suggested the Israeli prime minister would likely meet Saudi Arabia’s crown prince and de facto ruler, Mohammad bin Salman, and/or Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok during the trip as well.
Netanyahu, who is in hot water in Tel Aviv over his corruption cases, had hoped to use the audience with the Emirati crown prince to boost his reelection campaign days before the regime’s March 23 parliamentary elections.