El Al to fly Israel’s first flight to UAE by commercial carrier

TEL AVIV (Reuters) – El Al Airlines (ELAL.TA) will on Monday fly Israel’s first flight to the United Arab Emirates by a commercial carrier, an airline spokesman said on Friday, as the countries forge ahead with a deal to normalise ties.

The direct flight between Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport and the UAE’s political capital of Abu Dhabi is due to carry an Israeli delegation and top aides to U.S. President Donald Trump, who brokered the Aug. 13 accord.

Trump’s senior adviser Jared Kushner will be among the U.S. officials on the El Al flight departing on Aug. 31 at 10 a.m. (0700 GMT), a U.S official said.

A return flight from Abu Dhabi to Tel Aviv was scheduled for Tuesday afternoon, the El Al spokesman said, confirming timetable information on the Israel Airports Authority (IAI) website.

IAI listed the flight number for the outbound leg as “LY 971” and the return leg as “LY 972”, a nod to the UAE and Israel’s respective country codes.

“Next week for the first time there will be a commercial flight to Abu Dhabi. This is exactly what peace for peace looks like,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted on Friday.

Netanyahu’s ‘peace for peace’ wording pointedly contrasts the Israel-UAE deal with the “land for peace” formula that has underpinned decades of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, but which is despised by far-right Israeli settlers and parties who oppose any land concessions or statehood for Palestinians.

There are no official air links between Israel and the UAE, and it was unclear whether El Al would be able to fly over Saudi Arabia, which has no official ties with Israel, to cut down on flight time.

The exact flight route and landing time were still being worked on, the U.S. official said.

In May, an Etihad Airways plane flew from the UAE to Tel Aviv to deliver supplies to the Palestinians to use for the novel coronavirus epidemic, marking the first known flight by a UAE carrier to Israel.

The Israel-UAE deal awaits negotiations on details such as opening embassies, trade and travel links before it is officially signed.

Reporting and photo: Reuters

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