The first-ever passenger flight from the United Arab Emirates to Israel has landed near Tel Aviv, a month after the countries signed an agreement normalising ties.
Etihad Airways Flight 9607 landed at Israel’s Ben-Gurion international airport just after 7am on Monday.
The Boeing 787 Dreamliner departed for Abu Dhabi several hours later with an Israeli travel and tourism delegation on board, according to an Etihad statement.
The Israeli tourism professionals will be visiting the UAE for a two-day trip organised by Israeli company Maman Group, an airline spokesperson said.
The UAE carrier said it had made “history”.
“Etihad has become the first Gulf airline to operate a passenger flight to Israel. And this is only the beginning,” the airline said on Twitter.
Today, we make history. Etihad has become the first Gulf airline to operate a passenger flight to Israel. And this is only the beginning…
Salam and Shalom! pic.twitter.com/KT66QFfqmg
— Etihad Airways (@etihad) October 19, 2020
Etihad said it plans to schedule regular passenger flights between the countries in the future and was launching a Hebrew website.
In May and June, Etihad planes had landed in Ben-Gurion carrying medical supplies to help the Palestinians cope with the coronavirus pandemic. The Palestinians, who object strongly to the agreement Israel forged with the UAE and Bahrain, rejected the aid.
In August, Israel and the UAE announced that they had reached a US-brokered deal to normalise ties, following years of discreet economic and security cooperation.
Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, ratified the UAE deal last week.
The UAE and Israel were due on Tuesday to sign an agreement to have 28 weekly commercial flights between the countries, a transportation ministry official said.
In Manama on Sunday, Israel and Bahrain signed a deal to establish relations, making the UAE and Bahrain the third and fourth Arab states to normalise ties with Israel, following Israel’s 1979 peace deal with Egypt and a 1994 pact with Jordan.
Many Arab states say they remain committed to the Arab Peace Initiative – which calls for Israel’s complete withdrawal from the Palestinian territories occupied in 1967 in exchange for peace and the full normalisation of relations. But speculation has been rife that some countries in the region will soon join the bandwagon.
Israel’s right-wing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insists more states in the Middle East want ties with Israel as priorities have shifted, arguing countries now value lucrative trade opportunities above the Palestinian conflict.
But key player Saudi Arabia has said it will not follow its allies Bahrain and the UAE in establishing diplomatic relations without a resolution to the Palestinian issue.