First commercial passenger flight from UAE lands in Israel

19 Oct 2020

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This file photo shows senior US Presidential Adviser Jared Kushner and US National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien posing with members of the Israeli-American delegation in front of the El Al's flight LY971 on August 31. — Reuters
This file photo shows senior US Presidential Adviser Jared Kushner and US National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien posing with members of the Israeli-American delegation in front of the El Al's flight LY971 on August 31. — Reuters

The first commercial passenger flight to Israel by a carrier from the United Arab Emirates landed near Tel Aviv on Monday, further cementing a normalisation deal between the two countries.

Etihad Airways Flight No 9607 landed at Israel’s Ben-Gurion international airport just after 7am. The Boeing 787 Dreamliner departed for Abu Dhabi later Monday with an Israeli travel and tourism delegation on board, according to an Etihad statement.

Etihad said it plans regular passenger flights between the countries in the future and was launching a dedicated Hebrew website.

Etihad previously sent to Tel Aviv an unmarked cargo plane flying aid to assist the Palestinians in fighting the coronavirus. In August, a Star of David-adorned El Al plane flew from Israel to Abu Dhabi, carrying a high-ranking American and Israeli delegation in the first-ever direct commercial passenger flight between the two countries.

Israel and the UAE announced in August they had agreed to normalise ties, setting off a flurry of business, banking and intergovernmental agreements, along with an end to a longstanding boycott by the UAE against Israel.

Nearby Gulf monarchy Bahrain also signed an agreement on Sept 15 at the White House alongside the UAE to normalise relations with Israel. The UAE and Bahrain are the third and fourth Arab states to establish ties with Israel. Egypt and Jordan signed peace treaties with Israel in 1979 and 1994, respectively.

An Israeli delegation flew to Bahrain on Sunday to formalise that deal.

The so-called “Abraham Accords” brought long-clandestine ties between Israel and several Gulf states — forged in recent years over a shared concern over regional rival Iran — into the open.

The US-brokered normalisation agreements have outraged the Palestinians, whose leaders have called the deals a betrayal of a longtime Arab stance that recognition of Israel would come only after Palestinians obtain an independent state of their own.