Update: A spokesperson for Etihad Airways has denied reports first published by the Times of Israel that the airline ever intended to take part in Israel’s Independence Day celebrations. A statement from Etihad said: “As the national airline of the UAE, Etihad Airways does not participate in official ceremonies of foreign nations. Etihad can confirm that it is not and was not ever scheduled to participate in a flyover ceremony with Israel”.
Etihad Airways, the national flag carrier of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), is pulling its participation in Israel’s annual Independence Day celebrations which are set to take place between the evening of May 4 and May 5.
Along with Wizz Air Abu Dhabi, the airline was set to take part in a traditional aerial display in which Israel’s airforce and airlines including El Al fly along the coast from north to south. The event attracts thousands of people who throng the shore in Tel Aviv.
Both Etihad Airways and Wizz Air Abu Dhabi have, however, now confirmed that they won’t be taking part in the flyby. Separately, the UAE summoned Israel’s ambassador to the country for a dressing down over recent events at the Al Aqsa Mosque compound (also commonly known as Temple Mount) in Jerusalem which is one of the holiest sites in Islam.
Reem bint Ibrahim Al Hashemy, the UAE’s Minister of State for International Cooperation protested at what the country described as “attacks on civilians and incursions into holy places that resulted in the injury of a number of civilians.”
Jordon has a traditional role as custodian of Temple Mount as an intermediary between Israelis and Palestinians but in recent days Israeli security forces have entered the compound. Clashes and violence have broken out within Temple Mount, as well as in the West Bank.
Tensions first boiled over on Friday and there have been reports of clashes every day since. The overlap between Ramadan and Passover is believed to have heightened tensions.
Etihad Airways and Wizz Air Abu Dhabi were set to take part in the traditional Independence Day flyby but have pulled out because they claim they don’t have enough time to prepare. The decision was conveyed around the same time that the UAE publicly criticised Israel over its treatment of Palestinians at Temple Mount and across Israel.
This is the first time that the UAE has summoned Israel’s ambassador to the country since the two sides normalised relations more than a year and a half ago. Etihad Airways has played several pivotal roles in that process, including operating the first scheduled flight between the UAE and Israel.
That first flight was under the guise of delivering medical aid to the Palestinians. The Palestinian Authority rejected the aid on the grounds that it was a smokescreen for UAE to open up a dialogue with Israel over formalising a diplomatic relationship.
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.