Israel lists first commercial passenger flight to United Arab Emirates

Israel lists first commercial passenger flight to United Arab Emirates
An El Al flight to Abu Dhabi has been listed (AP/Ariel Schalit, File)

Israel has listed an El Al flight taking off on Monday for Abu Dhabi, which would be Israel’s first commercial passenger flight to the United Arab Emirates after the two countries agreed to a US-brokered deal to normalise relations.

The confirmation of the flight comes as the latest concrete sign of a deal that saw Israel agree to halt plans to annex land sought by the Palestinians. It also brought into the open a long-standing relationship between Israel and the UAE that both countries hope will benefit their economies and strengthen their ties to the US amid tensions with Iran.

The website of the Israel Airports Authority listed the flight on Friday. It said the flight would be numbered LY971, a nod to the UAE’s international calling code number. A return flight to Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion International Airport will be numbered LY972, Israel’s international calling code.

Emirati officials and the US Embassy in Abu Dhabi did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The flight was not immediately bookable on the website of El Al, Israel’s flag carrier.

However, US officials earlier said the anticipated first flight will include American officials led by President Donald Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner. Other US officials on board will include national security adviser Robert O’Brien, Middle East envoy Avi Berkowitz and envoy for Iran Brian Hook.

Donald Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner (Andrew Harnik/AP)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier announced that his national security adviser, Meir Ben-Shabbat, will lead Israel’s delegation. A number of Israeli government ministries will also send representatives, including the directors of the foreign and defence ministries and the national aviation authority, he said.

Private jets earlier flew between the two nations as their officials conducted covert talks. In May and June, Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways flew cargo freighters to Ben Gurion carrying aid for the Palestinians to combat the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Israel and the UAE agreed to normalise relations on August 13. By August 16, telephone calls began ringing between the nations, marking the first concrete step of the US-brokered diplomatic accord.

The historic deal delivered a key foreign policy victory to Trump as he seeks reelection, and reflected a changing Middle East in which shared concerns about Iran have largely overtaken traditional Arab support for the Palestinians.

Palestinians maintain it puts a just resolution to the Middle East conflict even farther out of reach.

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