First-known Direct Flight from UAE Lands in Israel
A commercial plane originating in the Sunni-majority United Arab Emirates landed in Israel on Tuesday night in what is believed to be the first-ever direct flight between the nations. The Etihad Airways aircraft arrived at Ben-Gurion Airport carrying 16 tons coronavirus-related aid destined for the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. It marked the latest example of public cooperation between Jerusalem and Abu Dhabi, which do not have formal diplomatic relations. Nevertheless, a bilateral relationship has blossomed in recent years mainly due to shared concerns over Shi’ite Iran’s regional interventionism and potential nuclearization. Israeli officials have visited the UAE, including then-culture and sports minister Miri Regev. She attended a judo tournament at which the Israeli national anthem was played after an athlete won a gold medal. She also visited Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, the third-largest Muslim house of worship in the world. Moreover, Israel maintains a small mission at the International Renewable Energy Agency in the Emirati capital. The Jewish state was slated to participate in Expo 2020 in Dubai, which has been delayed by a year due to the coronavirus pandemic. Notably, Iranian leader Ali Khamenei on Tuesday accused the UAE of committing “treachery” and “betrayal” by flying a plane directly to Israel.