Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

The Israeli flag carrier El Al's airliner carrying Israeli and U.S. delegates lands at Abu Dhabi International Airport, in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, on Aug. 31, 2020.

CHRISTOPHER PIKE/Reuters

A Star of David-adorned El Al plane flew from Israel to the United Arab Emirates on Monday, carrying a high-ranking American 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 U.S.-brokered deal to normalize relations between the two countries and solidifies the long-clandestine ties between them that have evolved over years of shared enmity toward Iran.

With the U.S. as matchmaker, Israel and the Emirates agreed earlier this month to work toward normalization, which would make it the third Arab country to have full relations with Israel, after Egypt and Jordan. Unlike those two countries, Israel has never fought a war against the UAE and hopes to have much warmer relations.

Story continues below advertisement

The U.S. delegation included 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.

An El Al Boeing 737 carrying senior U.S. and Israeli aides made aviation history by cutting straight over Saudi territory en route to Abu Dhabi on Monday. Reuters

At an airport ceremony in Abu Dhabi, Mr. 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 Mr. Ben-Shabbat, who spoke in Arabic and Hebrew. No Emirati officials spoke at the ceremony.

“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,” Mr. 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 signalled 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,” Mr. Kushner said.

Story continues below advertisement

He said he would be travelling to Saudi Arabia after the visit. Mr. Kushner and other officials have said they hope more Arab countries will follow the UAE in establishing ties with Israel, even without a peace agreement with the Palestinians.

Saudi King Salman, along with other Gulf Arab leaders to varying degrees, maintain their boycotts of Israel in support of Palestinians obtaining an independent state. Any regular flights between Israel and the UAE would require Saudi clearance to be profitable. Otherwise the three-hour, 20-minute flight would have taken more than seven hours.

The plane was decorated with the words for peace in Arabic, Hebrew and English above the pilot’s window.

The Israeli delegation will stay in the capital, Abu Dhabi, for one night before returning home on El Al flight LY972, a reference to Israel’s international calling code.

Private jets have earlier flown between the two countries as part of covert talks, and Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways flew cargo freighters to Israel before to deliver coronavirus aid to the Palestinians. But the high-profile flight Monday looked to place a solid stamp on the surprise Aug. 13 White House announcement of Israel and the UAE establishing ties.

Since then, telephone calls were connected, and the UAE’s ruler issued a decree formally ending the country’s decades-long boycott of Israel. Some Israeli companies have already signed deals with Emirati counterparts, and Monday’s visit is expected to usher in further business co-operation.

Story continues below advertisement

The UAE has touted the deal as a tool to force Israel into halting its contentious plan to annex parts of the West Bank sought by the Palestinians for their future state. It also may help the Emirates acquire advanced U.S. weapons systems that have been previously unattainable, such as the F-35 fighter jet. Currently, Israel is the only country in the region with the stealth warplanes.

The Palestinians, however, have fiercely opposed the normalization as peeling away one of their few advantages in moribund peace talks with Israel. Palestinians have held public protests and burned the UAE flag in anger.

In the West Bank, Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said it was “very painful” to see the flight take place. He also criticized El Al for picking a plane named for Kiryat Gat, a southern Israeli city built near the ruins of what were once Arab villages before the 1948 establishment of Israel.

During the Arab-Israeli war at that time, thousands of Egyptian troops were encircled by Israeli forces, including future Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser.

“It hurts us very much today when an Israeli plane lands in the Emirates, under the flight name Kiryat Gat, the settlement which was built on the occupied Palestinian lands of the town of Fallujah in which Gamal Abdel Nasser was trapped, in a clear and a blatant violation of the Arab position toward the Arab-Israeli conflict,” he said.

Mr. Shtayyeh’s government has severed ties with the U.S. and rejected Mr. Trump’s Mideast plan, saying it unfairly favours Israel.

Story continues below advertisement

In a reference to the Palestinians, Mr. Kushner said “the very few who have been critical of this peace agreement are the ones with a long track record of failure and trapping their people in misery and poverty.”

But he also said he sent a message of “hope” to the Palestinians.

“When they are ready, the whole region is very excited to help lift them up and move them forward. But they can’t be stuck in the past,” he said.

Israelis eagerly anticipate the prospect of mutual embassies, expanding tourism to the Gulf and solidifying business opportunities with another country that shares its penchant for technology and innovation.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has touted the deal as validation of his vision that regional peace doesn’t require Palestinian acquiescence or come at the cost of ceding land.

But he has come under fire from supporters at home for seemingly giving up on dreams of annexation and tacitly agreeing to the F-35 sale that could undermine Israel’s regional superiority. Mr. Kushner reiterated the U.S. commitment to maintaining Israel’s qualitative military advantage over its Arab neighbours.

Story continues below advertisement

For Mr. Trump, the accord delivers a key foreign policy victory as he faces a tough re-election campaign. It also helps solidify an emerging anti-Iran alliance that includes Israel and pro-Western Arab governments.

“Right now the biggest threat we see in the region is Iran,” Mr. Kushner said.

More Arab and Muslim states from the Middle East and Africa could soon recognize the state of Israel, an Israeli government minister said on Sunday. Reuters

Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Globe editors, giving you a concise summary of the day’s most important headlines. Sign up today.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies