Israeli plane lands in Bahrain after ties normalised: Flight data

Reports said an Israeli government delegation was on board the flight, which came days after the normalisation deals [File: Shealah Craighead/Anadolu]

The first known direct commercial flight between Israel and Bahrain has landed in the island kingdom, just a week after it signed a deal alongside the United Arab Emirates to normalise relations.

Flight data from the Flightradar24 website showed an Israir Airlines Airbus A320 landed at Bahrain International Airport after a nearly three-hour flight from Tel Aviv’s Ben-Gurion International Airport on Wednesday.

There was no immediate acknowledgement of the flight from the Israeli government, though Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday spoke by telephone to Bahrain’s Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa.

“We discussed how we might quickly add content to the agreements between Bahrain and Israel and turn this peace into economic peace, technological peace, tourist peace, peace in all of these fields,” a statement from Netanyahu said.

Israeli media reported an Israeli government delegation was on board the flight.

Bahrain’s state-run media did not immediately acknowledge the flight. Officials on the island off the coast of Saudi Arabia did not immediately respond to requests for comment, nor did the US embassy in Manama.

The flight was made without ceremony, in sharp contrast to the first El Al flight from Israel to the UAE at the end of August. That plane carried US and Israeli officials, including President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner.

In Bahrain, civil society groups have criticised the move to normalise relations with Israel, saying that recognition should come only after Palestinians obtain their independent state.

Bahrain, home to the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet and a British naval base, has a predominantly Shia population ruled by a Sunni royal family. Arab Spring protests there in 2011 ended with authorities cracking down with the help of Saudi and Emirati forces.

Bahrain and the UAE signed normalisation agreements with Israel on September 15 at the White House, part of a US diplomatic push as Trump seeks re-election.

The UAE and Israel have moved quickly to explore commercial ties after their normalisation deal, bringing to light a relationship previously kept quiet.

Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa had been quoted as saying he believed Arab countries should drop their boycott of Israel. It is likely that Saudi Arabia, an important benefactor for his nation, gave its assent to the normalisation deal.

Wednesday’s Israir flight flew over the Saudi kingdom, which has opened its airspace to Israeli flights to both Bahrain and the UAE.

Source: News Agencies