An Israeli commercial passenger plane with anti-missile technology has made political and aviation history by flying from Israel to Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), on Monday.
The flight marks the latest step in normalising relations between the Jewish state and a key Arab nation.
Aboard the El Al flight were Israeli government officials and a US delegation led by Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner.
President Trump has claimed credit for brokering the deal.
After his arrival in the UAE, Kushner said he had asked the pilots to fly faster because “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. I believe this agreement has the ability to change the whole course of the Middle East”.
In another historic move, Saudi Arabia allowed the aircraft to fly through its airspace.
The UAE recently repealed a 1972 law which boycotted Israel. This will pave the way for the two states to open embassies and establish commercial, defence and tourism ties.
However, the Palestinians have been left out of the process. They are reportedly dismayed by the UAE’s move, which they see as a betrayal of their position calling on Israel to withdraw from occupied territory and accept Palestinian statehood.
Speaking to reporters on board the flight, Kushner said Palestinians should come to the negotiating table.
“We can’t want peace for them more than they want it for themselves,” he said. “We have a good offer on the table and when they’re ready, they’ll call us.”
Speaking at a meeting of the Palestinian Authority, Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh said: “It has hurt us very much to see an Israeli plane landing in the Emirates in clear and blatant violation of the Arab position regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict.”
He saluted other Arab countries that reject normal relations with Israel despite “the pressures exerted on Arab countries by the Americans”.
There are other issues at work here, besides the Palestinian question.
Israel and the UAE share a common enemy in Iran. The new alliance strengthens the US-led axis against the malign influence that they believe Iran poses.