Emirati President Mohammed bin Zayed (MbZ) refused a request by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to pay unemployment stipends to Palestinian workers from the occupied West Bank and instead told his ally to go “ask Zelensky” for money during a recent phone conversation, according to informed officials who spoke with Axios.
Since the historic attack on southern settlements by Hamas in Gaza on October 7, Tel Aviv imposed a closure on the occupied West Bank and banned about 150,000 Palestinian workers from entering Israel.
As concerns grew that a worsening Palestinian economy would exacerbate the violent escalation in the West Bank, Netanyahu refused calls by the defense ministry and Shin Bet to put the issue of paying unemployment stipends to a vote in the security cabinet. Instead, he turned to his allies in Abu Dhabi.
During a phone call with MbZ a few weeks ago, Netanyahu “broadly asked for help in regards to the Palestinians,” the sources tell Axios. However, the conversation turned sour once the Israeli premier “specifically asked if the UAE would be willing to pay the Palestinian workers,” leaving the UAE leader “stunned.”
“MbZ told Netanyahu he couldn’t do it, and then sarcastically suggested the Israeli prime minister turn to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky instead,” the sources said, adding that the Emirati leader remarked that “Zelensky gets a lot of money from many countries, so maybe he would be able to help.”
“The notion that Arab countries will come in to rebuild and pay the bill for what’s currently happening is wishful thinking,” an Emirati official told Axios.
In mid-December, Netanyahu reportedly told Knesset officials that Saudi Arabia and the UAE would foot the bill to rebuild Gaza.
“The first step in Gaza will be to defeat Hamas. After that, I believe that the UAE and Saudi Arabia will support the rehabilitation of the Strip,” Netanyahu said during a closed-door testimony to the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.