The first commercial flight took off between Dubai airports in the United Arab Emirates and Tel Aviv airport in Israel today, after the normalization of relations between the two countries last September.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will attend the welcoming ceremony for the first flight of the airline, “flydubai”.
Ofir Gendelman, a spokesman for Netanyahu, wrote in a tweet on Twitter: “Prime Minister Netanyahu will attend this morning the welcoming ceremony for the first commercial flight of flydubai that will arrive at Ben Gurion International Airport.”
“These are the fruits of peace, Emirati tourists, welcome to Israel!” Added Gendelman.
With the economies of both countries severely affected by the Coronavirus pandemic, the UAE and Israel hope to make quick profits from the normalization agreement, including an influx of tourists as Dubai enters the winter tourism season.
“The start of scheduled flights will contribute to economic development and create more opportunities for investment,” said flydubai CEO, Ghaith Al Ghaith, when the service was announced earlier this month.
Etihad Airways, based in the UAE capital, Abu Dhabi, said it would start its flights to Tel Aviv in March of next year 2021.
The two countries have already signed treaties on visa-free travel – although this has not yet entered into force – as well as agreements on the protection of investment, science and technology.
Since the historic agreement, Bahrain and Sudan followed the example of the Emirates and agreed to establish relations with Israel.
Those agreements shattered the long-standing Arab consensus, which had stipulated non-normalization with Israel before it reached a comprehensive peace agreement with the Palestinians.
The low-cost airline will operate two flights daily to Tel Aviv. Meanwhile, two Israeli airlines are scheduled to launch commercial services between Tel Aviv and Dubai next month.
For years, many Gulf states have quietly built relations with Israel on the basis of shared hostility toward Iran, with the United States supporting this process.
And Saudi Arabia, which has a regional weight, has so far refrained from formalizing relations with Israel, but has given the green light for Israeli aircraft to fly over its territory.
After the announcement of the UAE deal by US President Donald Trump, last August, the Israeli El Al Airlines transported a delegation of American and Israeli officials – led by Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner – to Abu Dhabi on a historic direct trip between the two countries.
This was followed by an official visit by an Emirati delegation to Tel Aviv, in addition to a series of private flights carrying businessmen.
While the Emirati normalization move was welcomed by many parts of the international community, the UAE’s recognition of Israel without settling the issue of a Palestinian state was condemned by the Palestinians, who considered the move a “betrayal” of their cause.
In late August, the President of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, issued a decree repealing a law passed in 1972 regarding boycotting Israel.
The official Emirates News Agency said at the time that this step, which came after the announcement of a peace treaty between the two countries earlier, aims to strengthen economic and diplomatic cooperation with Israel.
Under the decree, Emirati individuals and companies can conclude agreements with entities or individuals residing in Israel or belonging to it by their nationality or working for it or for its benefit wherever they are, in terms of commercial, financial operations, or any other dealings.
It also allows entry, exchange, or possession of Israeli goods, commodities and products of all kinds and trade in them.
It is noteworthy that the UAE was the third Arab country to sign an agreement to normalize relations with Israel, after Egypt and Jordan.
On August 13, the US President announced that the UAE and Israel had reached an agreement to establish official relations between them.
In May of this year, the first Etihad Airways plane took off from Abu Dhabi to Tel Aviv to deliver aid to the Palestinians to combat the spread of the Coronavirus, and this was the first Emirati flight to Israel.
Saudi Arabia also agreed earlier to allow regular flights between Israel and the UAE to pass through its airspace.
The Saudi decision ends a ban imposed by the Kingdom on almost all Israeli aircraft in its airspace.