First direct flight between Israel and UAE lands in Abu Dhabi

The first commercial direct flight between Israel and the UAE landed in Abu Dhabi on Monday after both countries announced normalisation of relations.

The flight carried a top level Israeli delegation led by National Security Adviser Meir Ben Shabbat while the US delegation was headed by US President Donald Trump’s adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner and US National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien.

The delegation left aboard the commercial El Al flight 971 that took off from Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv at 11.21am local time. The word peace was painted on it in Arabic, English and Hebrew above a cockpit window.

“We just completed a truly historic flight. This hopefully will be the first of many,” Kushner said after disembarking from the flight.

He thanked leadership on both sides on the occasion. Saudi Arabia granted permission for the use of its air space.

“Peace overwhelmingly desired by the people, except by those who exploit misery to remain in power. Future belongs to industrious people of the region,” Kushner said.

Israel and the UAE announced on August 13 that they were establishing full diplomatic relations, in a US-brokered deal that required Israel to suspend its plan to annex parts of the West Bank.

UAE is only the third Arab country to establish diplomatic ties with the Jewish state. Israel’s neighbours, Egypt and Jordan, being the other two Arab states to recognise the Jewish state. The development is being seen as a major breakthrough because the Israeli national carrier, El Al, flew over the Saudi airspace, which is being interpreted by analysts as acceptance of Israel by the Gulf countries in general, and a probable normalisation of ties with some of the other “friendly countries” in that region.