Senior adviser to the president and son-in-law Jared Kushner was among a group of senior US and Israeli officials traveling to the United Arab Emirates from Israel on Monday on the first direct flight operated by an Israeli airline to the Gulf Kingdom.
The US and Israeli delegations flew from Israel’s Ben-Gurion Airport to the UAE capital, Abu Dhabi, to meet with their counterparts from the Emirates after Israel and the United Arab Emirates agreed to normalize relations on August 13 in a US-brokered deal.
The diplomatic breakthrough between Israel and the UAE has been highlighted as a foreign policy victory for President Donald Trump ahead of the November presidential election, as well as for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who, if signed, will be the first Israeli leader to formally normalize relations with a Persian state. bay.
Officials on the Boeing 737-900, which is decorated with the word “peace” in Hebrew, Arabic and English, also included National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien and an Israeli delegation led by National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabat.
“Yesterday, I prayed on the wall that Muslims and Arabs around the world were watching this flight, acknowledging that we are all children of God and that the future should not be predetermined by the past,” Kushner told reporters before boarding. The flight of El Al, in obvious reference to the Western Wall, the last remaining part of the second temple of the biblical period and the holiest place where Jews can pray.
Aircraft captain Tal Becker told reporters before 11:21 a.m. Local time (4:21 p.m. ET) that he never dreamed of flying a flight to Abu Dhabi. The flight hit Abu Dhabi at 15:38 local time (07:38 ET).
Before takeoff, Becker confirmed that the plane would fly through Saudi airspace and the flight was expected to take three hours and 20 minutes. If it hadn’t flown over Saudi Arabia, it would have been more than a seven-hour flight, he said.
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The normalization agreement is the first such agreement between an Arab state and Israel in more than 20 years and was made possible in part by shared hostility to Iran. Israel currently has peace agreements with only two Arab countries – Egypt and Jordan – where it has strengthened embassies.
If Israeli and UAE officials continue to sign a formal bilateral agreement in the coming weeks, it could boost foreign policy as it competes for re-election.
Meanwhile, the Palestinians refused the agreement, and Palestinian President’s spokesman Mahmoud Abbas called the UAE’s actions a “betrayal” of Jerusalem and the Palestinian cause.
The US and Israeli delegations will remain in the UAE until Tuesday, and their visit will include meetings between the heads of delegations, the Israeli prime minister’s media adviser said in a statement.
There will also be discussions between Israeli, Emirati and US officials in a number of areas, including diplomacy, finance, aviation, tourism, science and investment and trade, the statement said.
“This visit comes as part of a tripartite effort to start normalized relations in order to achieve peace, stability and support for bilateral co-operation,” the United Arab Emirates Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation said in a statement on Sunday.
Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to the report.
Lavahez Jabari contributed.