First commercial flight between Israel and UAE lands in Abu Dhabi, marking 'normalisation deal'

First commercial flight between Israel and UAE lands in Abu Dhabi, marking 'normalisation deal'
The flight was seen as an important symbolic step in the UAE-Israel normalisation agreement.
3 min read
31 August, 2020
The flight was the first for a commercial airliner between Israel and the UAE [Getty]
The first commercial flight between Israel and the UAE landed in Abu Dhabi on Monday afternoon, marking an important moment in the controversial normalisation agreement between the two countries.

The El Al flight - emblazoned with the word "peace" in Arabic, Hebrew and English - took off from Tel Aviv Monday morning and passed through Saudi airspace - another first for an Israeli carrier.

It carried leading Israeli security, aviation and business officials along with a US delegation led by senior White House advisor and President Donald Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner.

"[Crown Prince] Mohamed bin Zayed is truly leading the new Middle East," he said, according to The National, saying the de-facto UAE ruler had displayed "leadership" and "courage" when pushing through the so-called "Abraham Accord".

"On the plane, we asked the pilots to fly faster because there is great urgency between the people of both countries."
Pilots waved Israeli, US, and UAE flags from the cockpit once the plane landed on the tarmac in Abu Dhabi to mark the first commercial flight from Israel to a Gulf state.

The Israeli officials will hold talks with UAE officials later on Monday.

The flight, an Israeli El-Al airliner emblazoned with the Israeli national colours of blue and white as well as the Star of David.

The 'historic' flight marks another step towards implementing the 13 August normalisation agreement between Israel and the UAE, which sparked anger across the Arab world.

Netanyahu said the Abu Dhabi talks would "advance peace and normalisation" with the UAE and would focus on flights and tourism, trade, business, energy, security and health, including the coronavirus pandemic.

However, the bombshell announcement earlier this month sparked fury from Arabs who have long seen the establishment of a Palestinian state as a prerequisite for Arab-Israeli diplomatic relations to be established.

The UAE has claimed that the normalisation agreement will stop Israel from going ahead with its planned annexation of Palestinian land, however, Netanyahu said the project has only been delayed.

Ahead of the trip, the UAE on Saturday issued a decree  formally ending the country's boycott of Israel on orders of Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, the UAE ruler.

WAM said the new decree allows Israelis and Israeli firms to do business in the UAE, a federation of seven sheikhdoms on the Arabian Peninsula. It also allows for the purchase and trade of Israeli goods.

"The decree of the new law comes within the UAE's efforts to expand diplomatic and commercial cooperation with Israel," WAM said. It lays out "a roadmap toward launching joint cooperation, leading to bilateral relations by stimulating economic growth and promoting technological innovation".

Agencies contributed to this story.

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