Israeli Prime Minister will visit the United Arab Emirates on Thursday in an opportunity to showcase the normalization of ties before a closely contested Knesset election.

Iran Press/ Middle East: Benjamin Netanyahu may reportedly meet Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) there.

The Israeli public broadcaster Kan said he would hold talks with Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan and that the Saudi crown prince might join them.

Kan's report was not immediately confirmed by Netanyahu’s office or by the UAE.

A Saudi official source denied the report and told Reuters that Prince Mohammed would not be visiting the UAE on Thursday and would not be meeting Netanyahu.

Israel’s Channel 12 TV said Netanyahu would spend two hours in the UAE, entirely at an Abu Dhabi airport.

Israel established formal relations with the UAE and Bahrain last September - only its third and fourth normalization deals with Arab states in over 70 years - as part of a US-brokered agreement. 

Saudi Arabia encouraged the rapprochement but stopped short of recognizing Israel itself. In November, Israeli officials and sources familiar with the matter said BiBi and MBS met covertly in the kingdom but Riyadh publicly denied the meeting.

It was not immediately clear if Netanyahu, on what Israeli media said would be a one-day visit, would also go to Bahrain, as he had planned to do during a previously scheduled one-day trip to the Persian Gulf Arab states in February which he postponed due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

Netanyahu, running in politically polarised Israel’s fourth election in two years largely on his role in its rapid COVID-19 vaccination program, has also made his drive to forge new relations in the Persian Gulf region a centerpiece of his campaign.

In an interview with Israeli Army Radio on Tuesday, Netanyahu called on voters to re-elect him on March 23 so that he could achieve more peace agreements.