Direct commercial flights between Israel and the United Arab Emirates may soon become a reality after the two countries agreed to establish formal diplomatic relations. The historic breakthrough came about after Israel agreed not to proceed with any further annexation of Palestinian territory. The news emerged in a joint statement released by Israel, the UAE and the United States who helped to broker the deal.
At present, the only countries in the Middle to have full diplomatic ties with Israel are Egypt and Jordan. Talks are set to begin in “the coming weeks” and will include a host of important areas such as investment, technology and energy, as well as tourism and direct flights.
In May, Etihad Airways made history when it operated the first commercial flight between Abu Dhabi and Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport in order to deliver much-needed medical aid for Palestinian authorities. The flight was repeated a month later, although the operation was marred in controversy after the Palestinian Authority accused the UAE of using the flights as a “tool for normalization” with Israel.
No passengers were onboard either flight, which were used solely to deliver cargo. After the first flight, the Palestinian Authority refused to accept the aid shipment.
Today’s joint statement said the agreement would “advance peace in the Middle East” and that all three countries would “mutually benefit” from the deal.
“Opening direct ties between two of the Middle East’s most dynamic societies and advanced economies will transform the region by spurring economic growth, enhancing technological innovation, and forging closer people-to-people relations,” the statement continued.
The United States said it hoped today’s agreement would help establish the normalisation of relations between Israel and other Middle East countries. Kuwait, for example, currently forbids its citizens from doing business with Israel and its citizens, and Israeli’s are banned from travelling on Kuwait Airways.
The ban on Israeli’s flying on Kuwait Airways have been subject to legal challenge in both the United States and Europe but the airline continues to bar Israeli passport holders, saying to do otherwise would be illegal.
The quickest way to get between the UAE’s capital Abu Dhabi and Tel Aviv is with a connection in Cairo and a total travel time of nearly seven hours. Direct flights between the two cities would cover 1,311 miles and take less than three hours.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.