One Mideast Flight, 2 Historic Firsts

First Israel-UAE flight lands with Kushner aboard; Saudi blessing cut time in half
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Aug 31, 2020 7:44 AM CDT
Kushner Aboard Historic Flight to New Israeli Ally
Israeli National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat, left, Jared Kushner, center, and US National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien board the El Al airliner at Ben-Gurion International Airport in Israel Monday.   (Nir Elias/Pool Photo via AP)

An Israeli El Al plane flew from Israel to the United Arab Emirates on Monday, carrying a high-ranking American and Israeli delegation to Abu Dhabi in the first-ever direct commercial passenger flight between the two countries. The flight marked the implementation of the historic US-brokered deal to normalize relations between the two nations and solidifies the long-clandestine ties between them that have evolved over years of shared enmity toward Iran, per the AP. The American delegation includes President Trump’s adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, as well as national security adviser Robert O’Brien. With the US as matchmaker, Israel and the UAE agreed earlier this month to work toward normalization, which would make the UAE the third Arab nation to have full relations with Israel, after Egypt and Jordan.

“While this is a historic flight, we hope that this will start an even more historic journey for the Middle East and beyond,” Kushner told reporters before boarding the plane. The El Al flight, numbered LY971 as a gesture to the UAE’s international calling code number, flew into Saudi Arabian airspace shortly after takeoff and later passed over the capital, Riyadh. That marked another historic first for Israel and at least an acquiescence by the kingdom for the UAE's move. Saudi King Salman, along with other Gulf Arab leaders to varying degrees, maintain their boycotts of Israel in support of Palestinians obtaining an independent state. Any long-term flights between Israel and the UAE would require Saudi clearance to be profitable. Otherwise the three-hour, 20-minute flight would take more than seven hours.

(Read more Israel stories.)

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