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In first-ever direct flight, Israeli plane flies to UAE via Saudi skies: All you need to know

El Al Flight LY971, named after UAE’s international dialling code, left for Abu Dhabi this morning, carrying top aides of US President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

By: Express Web Desk | New Delhi | Updated: August 31, 2020 9:58:21 pm
UAE Israel flight, Israel UAE flight, UAE Israel first ever flight, UAE Israel deal, UAE Israel peace deal, UAE Israel peace pact, World news, Indian ExpressIsraeli flag carrier El Al's airliner which is carrying Israeli and U.S. delegations to Abu Dhabi for talks meant to put final touches on the normalization deal between the United Arab Emirates and Israel, takes off at Ben Gurion Airport, near Tel Aviv, Israel Monday, Aug. 31, 2020. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

Weeks after the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Israel signed a historic peace agreement brokered by the United States, a delegation of high-level officials took off from Tel Aviv on Monday, aboard the first-ever commercial flight between the two Middle Eastern countries.

El Al Flight LY971, named after UAE’s international dialling code, left for Abu Dhabi this morning, carrying top aides of US President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner and Israel’s National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat are leading the delegation, BBC reported.

The delegates are set to meet with their Emirati counterparts once they land in Abu Dhabi later Monday. During the overnight visit, they will discuss how to develop various areas of cooperation between Israel and the UAE. On Tuesday, the delegates will return to Israel onboard flight LY972, which is numbered to represent Israel’s international dialling code.

Read | UAE formally ends Israel boycott amid US-brokered deal

In a significant diplomatic development, the flight will be passing over Saudi Arabia’s airspace, which is otherwise blocked for Israeli aircraft, Reuters reported. This, in a way, indicates Saudi’s acceptance of the controversial peace deal.

By signing the peace agreement on August 13, the UAE became the third Arab nation after Egypt (in 1979) and Jordan (in 1994) to recognise and establish diplomatic relations with Israel. In return, President Netanyahu vowed to stall his plans to annex the highly-contested territory of West Bank.

UAE Israel flight, Israel UAE flight, UAE Israel first ever flight, UAE Israel deal, UAE Israel peace deal, UAE Israel peace pact, World news, Indian Express An Israeli delegation led by National Security Advisor Meir Ben-Shabbat, and U.S. National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien, front right, and U.S. President Trump’s senior adviser Jared Kushner, front center, make their way to board the Israeli flag carrier El Al’s airliner as they fly to Abu Dhabi for talks meant to put final touches on the normalization deal between the United Arab Emirates and Israel, at Ben-Gurion International Airport, near Tel Aviv, Israel Monday, Aug. 31, 2020. (Nir Elias/Pool Photo via AP)

Soon after, delegations from both countries began working towards forging bilateral ties across various avenues — including investment, telecommunication, tourism and direct flights. Earlier this month, the first direct telephone service was opened between the two countries, BBC reported.

Here are the top developments on the Israel-UAE Peace deal

‘This is what peace for peace looks like,’ says Netanyahu

In a recent tweet, shared ahead of the historic flight between the two Middle Eastern countries, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the voyage was an example of “peace for peace”, BBC reported.

Read | Mike Pompeo, in Mideast, hopes for improved Israel-Arab ties

“That’s what peace for peace looks like,” his tweet, originally written in Hebrew, read. The plane itself carried the word ‘peace’, printed in Arabic, English and Hebrew right above the cockpit window.

Meanwhile, Israel’s National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat said he was excited for the trip, adding that the aim was to work towards cooperation in areas like tourism, medicine, technology and trade, AP reported.

“This morning the traditional greeting of ‘go in peace’ takes on a special significance for us,” Ben-Shabbat told reporters, before boarding the flight.

‘This is a historic flight,’ says Jared Kushner

Addressing the media before boarding the flight, White House Adviser Jared Kushner said that he hoped that the three hour trip to Abu Dhabi would mark the beginning of a historic journey for the Middle East, the Guardian reported.

This is a historic flight. We hope that this will start an even more historic journey for the Middle East and beyond,” he said.

Don’t miss from Explained | Explained: Israel and UAE normalise relations; here’s what it means for the Middle East

Kushner played a central role in brokering the deal between Israel and the UAE. Speaking in Jerusalem on Sunday, Kushner called the agreement a “giant step forward”. “To have played a role in its creation, and I say this as the grandson of two Holocaust survivors, it means more to me and to my family that I can ever express,” he added.

In historic first, pilot confirms flight will cross Saudi Arabia

The plane’s captain, 45-year-old Tan Becker, announced that the flight would be passing over Saudi Arabia shortly after takeoff. This marked the first time an Israeli aircraft entered Saudi airspace, AP reported.

Saudi and several other Gulf countries had previously imposed a number of restrictions on Israel, due to their support of Palestinians who are seeking to obtain an independent state in West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip areas captured by Israel.

Had Saudi not permitted the flight to enter, the three hour and 20 minute flight would have taken more than seven hours, an AP report stated.

UAE cancels Israel Boycott, paving the way for flight, business

The President of the UAE Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan on Saturday cancelled an age-old law boycotting Israel, which finally allowed for trade and financial agreements between the two countries, Reuters reported.

The decree aimed at “supporting bilateral cooperation in order to arrive at (the establishment) of bilateral relations”, according to a report by the UAE’s official news agency WAM.

According to Israeli Foreign minister Gabi Ashkenazi, with its recent decree the country had taken “an important step towards peace, which will yield substantial economic and commercial achievements for both people while strengthening the stability in the region.”

The lifting of the boycott paved the way for the historic flight between Tel Aviv and Abu Dhabi that took place today, and also business between the two countries in the future.

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