A Star of David-adorned El Al plane yesterday flew from Israel to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), carrying a high-ranking US and Israeli delegation to Abu Dhabi in the first-ever direct commercial passenger flight between the two countries.
The Israeli flag carrier’s flight marked the implementation of the historic US-brokered deal to normalize relations between the two nations and solidifies the long-clandestine ties between them that have evolved over years of shared enmity toward Iran.
With the US as matchmaker, Israel and the UAE on Aug. 13 agreed to work toward normalization, which would make it the third Arab nation to have full relations with Israel, after Egypt and Jordan.
The US delegation included US President Donald Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, as well as National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien.
Israel was represented by National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat and other top officials.
At an airport ceremony in Abu Dhabi, Kushner called the visit a “historic breakthrough” and expressed hope this “will be the first of many” such flights.
“There is great urgency between the people of both countries to break down old barriers, to get to know each other, to form new and hopefully very deep friendships,” he said.
State television in Abu Dhabi broke into its broadcast to show the airplane on the tarmac and aired the comments of all officials, including Ben-Shabbat, who spoke in Arabic and Hebrew.
“We came here in broad daylight and before the eyes of all in a plane bearing the flag of Israel along with our American friends,” Ben-
Shabbat said. “Israel and the UAE have much in common. Our region is full of challenges and threats, but we have the strength and the ability to stand against them.”
The El Al flight, numbered LY971 after the UAE’s international calling code number, flew into Saudi Arabian airspace shortly after takeoff and later passed over the capital, Riyadh. That marked another historic first for Israel and signaled acquiescence by the kingdom for the UAE’s move.
“They were very gracious to allow us to fly over their airspace, which they’ve never done before, for an Israeli commercial plane,” Kushner said, adding that he would be traveling to Saudi Arabia after the visit.
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