First-Ever Israeli Flight Touches Down in Abu Dhabi

 - August 31, 2020, 1:10 PM

The first-ever official commercial flight between Israel and the United Arab Emirates took place Monday, as an exchange of ambassadors and a White House ceremony to finalize the normalization of relations between the two countries, announced August 13, appeared set to take place next month.

El Al Flight LY971, operated by a Boeing 737, touched down at Abu Dhabi International Airport at around 3:15 p.m. local time, after leaving Tel Aviv 45 minutes late, at 11:15 a.m. Israel time, on the three-hour flight.

“We just completed a truly historic flight, the first-ever commercial flight from Israel to an Arab Gulf country. This hopefully will be the first of many,” Jared Kushner, delegation head and special adviser to U.S. President Donald Trump, told reporters waiting on the tarmac. “Also historic was the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia granting permission for this Israeli commercial flight to use its airspace. It is the first time that this has ever happened.”

Emirati officials have been nonplussed by the idea that Israel plans the mere “suspension” of the annexation of parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, rather than a full cessation of that program, the understanding on which sides reached the normalization deal. Anwar Gargash, UAE minister of state for foreign affairs, led the Emirati delegation to greet the flight.

Meanwhile, in Dubai, a Reuters report published Monday unearthed a potential bond prospectus indicating that the Government of Dubai had given Emirates airline $2 billion in bailout aid in recent months.

In March, Dubai’s Crown Prince, Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum, said on social media that the “national carrier” had positioned Dubai “as a global travel hub and has great strategic value as one of the main pillars of Dubai's economy, as well as the wider economy of the UAE.

“We will announce further details about the equity injection and more measures soon,” he added at the time.

The Reuters report noted the absence of any official announcement on the assistance. “No such injection has been publicly announced by the government or the airline,” it said, adding that the Dubai Department of Finance, the Government Media Office, and the airline had all declined comment.