Israel and UAE in historic direct flight following peace deal

image copyrightEPA

The first commercial flight from Israel to the UAE has landed, marking a major step in normalising relations after the announcement of a peace deal.

The El Al airliner made the three-hour trip, carrying a delegation of Israeli and US officials.

The flight was allowed to cross Saudi Arabian airspace, normally blocked to Israeli air traffic.

The UAE became only the third Arab country in the Middle East to recognise Israel since its founding in 1948.

On Saturday the UAE repealed a law boycotting Israel which had been in place since 1972, and earlier this month the two countries opened direct telephone services for the first time.

The agreement to normalise relations – brokered by the US – was made public in a surprise announcement on 13 August.

Flight LY971 – numbered to represent the UAE's international dialling code – carried delegates including Donald Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner and Israel's National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat.

Israeli and US delegates, including Jared Kushner (centre), board the Israel-UAE flight (31/08/20)image copyrightReuters

Mr Kushner led secret talks which resulted in the Israel-UAE agreement.

The joint teams will meet Emirati representatives to develop areas of co-operation between Israel and the UAE. The return flight will be numbered LY972, after Israel's international dialling code.

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Analysis box by Tom Bateman, Middle East correspondent

Monday's three-hour flight has taken more than 70 years to make, and it marks a new turning point in relations between Israel and the Arab world.

There are big prizes for all three players: Israel's historic need to boost regional recognition of the Jewish state (could Saudi Arabia one day do so too?); the Emiratis' glittering finance hubs can benefit from open links with the region's security and cyber superpower; while a US president under pressure at home gets to tout his role as peacemaker in the Middle East.

These are truly significant achievements and further shift the dynamics in a deeply polarised region. But the deal is striking for another reason – it leaves the Palestinians feeling as sidelined as ever.

They believe it breaks years of Arab solidarity – and leverage – against Israel's occupation of land they want for a future state; while ordinary Palestinians feel more and more hemmed in as Israeli settler numbers grow.

They see not only betrayal, but a blind eye being turned by the Emiratis to their reality on the ground.

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In a tweet in Hebrew, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed the advent of the flight as an example of "peace for peace" – alluding Read More – Source