El Al flight 971 carrying Israeli and American delegation bound for Abu Dhabi.
By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News
The first-ever commercial Israel-United Arab Emirates flight took off from Israel’s Ben Gurion International Airport at 10:30 a.m. Monday morning, bound for Abu Dhabi and scheduled to land in the UAE at 3:30 p.m.
In another first, Israel’s Channel 12 News reported that the flight crossed Saudi airspace on the way to its destination. Previously, Israeli planes have been banned from flying over Saudi Arabia.
The word “peace” was painted in Arabic, English and Hebrew on the side of the El Al aircraft making the historic journey. The flight was named “LY971” in honor of the Emirates’ international calling code.
Aboard the plane was an Israeli delegation made up of many of the Jewish State’s prominent public servants, who traveled to meet their Emirati counterparts to discuss bilateral cooperation on matters ranging from technology to biomedical engineering and tourism.
Led by National Security Advisor Meir Ben-Shabbat, the delegation includes Health Ministry Director General Prof. Chezy Levy, Science and Technology Ministry Director General Shai-Li Spiegelman, National Cyber Directorate head Yigal Unna, and Chief Scientist and Innovation Authority head Dr. Amiram Applebaum.
In a statement released prior to takeoff, Ben-Shabbat said, “I am excited and proud to head the Israeli delegation to the talks in Abu Dhabi. We are leaving today for talks pursuant to the declaration by the three leaders – President Donald Trump, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed – on the establishment of peaceful relations.”
“Our goal is to achieve a joint working plan to advance relations in a very broad range of areas: Tourism, aviation, innovation, science, technology, health, economic matters and many others. This morning, the traditional blessing ‘go in peace’ receives special meaning for us. Thank you very much to everyone.”
Also onboard the flight were several important American officials, including Trump advisor Jared Kushner, who played a significant role in brokering the Israel-UAE peace deal, and National Security adviser Robert O’Brien.
Notably absent from the Israeli delegation were top security officials, such as Defense Minister and alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz. Defense officials are slated to visit the UAE in a separate visit in the coming weeks.
Yesterday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office released a statement clarifying the nature of the visit.
“It was decided that the Israeli delegation to the United Arab Emirates, which will leave on Monday, will discuss civilian issues,” read the statement.
“Additional issues, including security matters, will be discussed later.”
The flight comes on the heels of a decree by Emirati ruler Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan last Saturday, which officially ended the UAE”s decades-long boycott of Israeli products and companies.
“The decree of the new law comes within the UAE’s efforts to expand diplomatic and commercial cooperation with Israel,” WAM, an Emirati state-run news agency, reported.
“[It creates] a roadmap toward launching joint cooperation, leading to bilateral relations by stimulating economic growth and promoting technological innovation.”