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The New Arab Staff

'Normalisation flight' from Israel to UAE begins journey

Kushner is leading the delegation from Israel to the UAE [Getty]

Date of publication: 31 August, 2020

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The first commercial Israel-UAE flight has started its journey from Tel Aviv to Abu Dhabi.
White House advisor and US President Donald Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner, boarded the first Israel-UAE commercial flight on Monday, after a controversial US-brokered deal to normalise ties between the two states.

"While this is a historic flight, we hope that it will start an even more historic journey in the Middle East and beyond," Kushner, who is leading the US delegation, said before boarding the El Al's LY971 aircraft to Abu Dhabi.

The flight, an Israeli El-Al airliner emblazoned with the Israeli national colours of blue and white as well as the Star of David, is the first known direct trip by the flag-carrier to a Gulf Arab state.

The 'historic' flight marks another step towards implementing the 13 August normalisation agreement between Israel and the UAE, which sparked anger across the Arab world.

Previous announcements by US officials confirmed the delegation will be headed by President Donald Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner.

It will also include National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien, Middle East Envoy Avi Berkowitz and Envoy for Iran Brian Hook.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also said his national security adviser, Meir Ben-Shabbat, would lead Israel's delegation.

A number of representatives of the Israeli government, including the directors of the foreign and defence ministries and the national aviation authority, are also expected be on board the flight.

Netanyahu said the Abu Dhabi talks would "advance peace and normalisation" with the UAE and would focus on flights and tourism, trade, business, energy, security and health, including the coronavirus pandemic.

However, the bombshell announcement earlier this month sparked fury from Arabs who have long seen the establishment of a Palestinian state as a prerequisite for Arab-Israeli diplomatic relations.

The UAE has claimed that the normalisation agreement will stop Israel from going ahead with its planned annexation of Palestinian land, however, Netanyahu said the project has only been delayed.

Ahead of the trip, the UAE on Saturday issued a decree  formally ending the country's boycott of Israel on orders of Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, the UAE ruler.

WAM
 said the new decree allows Israelis and Israeli firms to do business in the UAE, a federation of seven sheikhdoms on the Arabian Peninsula. It also allows for the purchase and trade of Israeli goods.

"The decree of the new law comes within the UAE's efforts to expand diplomatic and commercial cooperation with Israel," WAM said. It lays out "a roadmap toward launching joint cooperation, leading to bilateral relations by stimulating economic growth and promoting technological innovation".

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