מטוס אל על נחיתה נמל תעופה אבו דאבי איחוד האמירויות
The El Al plane is greeted in Abu Dhabi by a masked Emirati official
Photo; Reuters
Israeli and U.S. delegations disembark from the plane in UAE

Making history: First direct Israel-UAE flight lands in Abu Dhabi

Kushner upon arrival urges Palestinians to 'stop living in the past' and says potential sale of F-35 jets to UAE will not harm 'Israel's qualitative military edge in the region'; head of Israeli delegation thanks the Emiratis in fluent Arabic

Itamar Eichner, Itay Blumenthal |
Published: 08.31.20 , 14:45
A plane belonging to Israel's flag carrier El Al made history on Monday afternoon becoming the first Israeli aircraft to make a direct commercial flight from Israel to the United Arab Emirates - a journey that also saw an Israeli plane use Saudi airspace for the first time.
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  • Flight LY971 took off from Tel Aviv some three hours before it touched down in the UAE capital, carrying Israeli and American officials including senior White House aide Jared Kushner.
    The delegation was set to meet with UAE officials to discuss the details of the historic peace deal between the two countries announced earlier this month. Security officials have not joined the delegation, with matters concerning defense set to be discussed at a later date.
    Kushner upon arrival in Abu Dhabi said that the peace forged by Emirati and Israeli leaders was also desired by the two countries' peoples.
    Kushner also thanked Saudi Arabia for granting permission for the first official Israeli flight from Tel Aviv to the United Arab Emirates. "They were very gracious to allow us to fly over their airspace, which they've never done before, for an Israeli commercial plane. And so this, again, is another historic breakthrough."
    ג'ארד קושנרג'ארד קושנר
    Israeli and U.S. delegations disembark from the plane in UAE
    (Photo: AFP)
    Kushner also addressed the rumored sale of advanced F-35 planes to the Emiratis by the U.S., which some says could undermine Israel's military superiority on the region. He said the sale will be discussed in the future and U.S. "can maintain Israel's qualitative military edge in the region while advancing Washington's relations with UAE."
    He also urged Palestinians to return to the negotiating table and "stop living in the past".
    פגישת המשלחות באבו דאביפגישת המשלחות באבו דאבי
    Meir Ben Shabbat and Jared Kushner meet with UAE officials
    State television in Abu Dhabi broke into its broadcast to show the airplane on the tarmac and aired the comments of all officials, including National Security Council Chairman Meir Ben Shabbat, who heads the Israeli delegation and who spoke upon arrival in the UAE in fluent Arabic.
    Ben Shabbat said the representatives of the countries will discuss economic, scientific, trade and cultural cooperation during a visit starting Monday.
    ג'ארד קושנרג'ארד קושנר
    Meir Ben Shabbat and Jared Kushner
    (Photo: AFP)
    Flight LY971 took off at 11:15 am, following a 45 minute delay, and soon entered Saudi Arabian airspace after the kingdom agreed Sunday to the request made by Israeli officials.
    Flight LY972 will return to Israel on Tuesday. The numbers for two flights include the UAE and Israeli international dialling codes, respectively.
    מטוס אל על נחיתה נמל תעופה אבו דאבי איחוד האמירויותמטוס אל על נחיתה נמל תעופה אבו דאבי איחוד האמירויות
    The El Al plane is greeted in Abu Dhabi by a masked Emirati official
    (Photo; Reuters)
    The aircraft is a Boeing 737, equipped with a special missile defense system, which has the word "peace" written in Hebrew, Arabic and English on the front of the plane.
    The plane's captain, Tal Becker, said he has not worked for several months and received a call out of the blue asking him to prepare for the flight. He said it took about a week to get up to speed.
    The 45-year veteran, who is the senior captain in El Al's 737 fleet, said he never dreamed of flying to Abu Dhabi, calling it a "very special feeling."
    כתבות שלום על מטוס אל על לאמירויותכתבות שלום על מטוס אל על לאמירויות
    The word 'peace' is written in Hebrew, Arabic and English on the front of the plane
    (Photo: El Al)
    The visit is expected to include meetings on a variety of topics, as well as the signing of agreements on cooperation in the civic and economic field.
    The visit will include a joint meeting of Ben Shabbat, U.S. National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien, Kushner and UAE National Security Adviser Sheikh Tahanon Ben Zayed.
    המשלחתהמשלחת
    The American and Israeli delegations prepare to board the plane from Tel Aviv to Abu Dhabi
    (Photo: Yariv Katz)
    "I prayed yesterday at the [Western] Wall that Muslims and Arabs throughout the world will be watching this flight, recognizing that we are all children of God, and that the future does not have to be pre-determined by the past," Kushner told reporters on the tarmac at Ben-Gurion airport.
    "This morning the traditional greeting of 'go in peace' takes on a special significance for us," Ben Shabbat said before take off.
    המשלחתהמשלחת
    L-R: Meir Ben Shabbat, Jared Kushner and Robert O'Brien board the El Al plane bound for Abu Dhabi
    (Photo: AP)
    The discussions will take place in working groups attended by Israeli, American and American representatives who are set to discuss the topics of: diplomacy, finance, aviation and entry visas, health, culture and tourism, space and science and investment, innovation and trade.
    Among those also part of the Israeli delegation are Cabinet Secretary Tzachi Braverman, Director-General of the Ministry of Health Prof. Hezi Levi, directors of the ministries of economy, regional cooperation and science, director-general of the population authority, director of the Civil Aviation Authority and other representatives.
    Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report
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