İrem UZUN -TDO- High-level delegations from Israel and the U.S. have arrived in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), via the first-ever commercial flight between the Middle Eastern nations. Top aides to U.S. President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were on board the direct flight from Tel Aviv to the UAE capital Abu Dhabi on Israel's flag carrier El Al on Monday.
The Boeing 737 was given permission to fly through Saudi Arabian airspace, in a first for Israeli carrier El Al, its captain Tal Becker announced shortly before take-off. The flight would have taken seven hours if it had not been allowed to use Saudi airspace, Becker said; instead it took just over three hours. Israel and Saudi Arabia do not share diplomatic relations.
The flight number LY 971 was specially chosen for the flight, as it is the dialing code for the UAE. The return flight will be LY 972 -- Israel's dialing code. While members of the public were not able to purchase a ticket for the historic journey, it meets the Federal Aviation Administration's criteria for a commercial flight because some of those on board will be paying for their tickets.
Earlier this month, the White House released a lengthy joint statement between the U.S., UAE and Israel, calling the "full normalization of relations" between Israel and the UAE a "historic diplomatic breakthrough" and a positive development in efforts to reinforce solidarity against Iran. Yet, Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh on Monday slammed the flight as "very painful" and "a clear and a blatant violation of the Arab position towards the Arab-Israeli conflict". "We had hoped to see an Emirati plane landing in a liberated Jerusalem, but we live in a difficult Arab era," he said.