Israel flight to UAE praised in Gulf, cursed by Palestinians

Reactions around the Arab world predictable with Gulf states praising, Palestinians condemning, Saudis silent.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

The first Israeli flight that landed Monday in the United Arab Emirates generated a lot of reaction in the Arab world along mostly predicable lines.

In the UAE the state-run WAM news agency tweeted a picture of the El Al plane with the flags of the UAE, Israel and the USA as the flight landed, emphasizing “the word ‘peace’ printed in Arabic, English and Hebrew above a cockpit window.”

The Al Jazeera news service, known for its negative reporting of Israel, gave matter-of-fact coverage and also noted that the El Al plane had the word “peace” in the three languages. The network also mentioned that the plane overflew Saudi Arabian airspace, a first for those two nations that are technically at war. However, Al Jazeera did not specifically use the term “peace agreement” in its coverage, Channel 20 news reported.

The Dubai-based Al-Arabiya TV channel that has a broad audience in the Arab world gave wide coverage to the event, posting videos on its Twitter feed of Israeli and American officials giving their comments shortly after the landing.

Those tweets included a video of Israeli National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat giving his greetings in fluent Arabic and quoting him as saying: “We expect peace to be strengthened by other agreements.”

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The Saudi Gazette English language news website quoted the WAM report, not mentioning that the El Al flight flew through Saudi airspace. Saudi officials have so far maintained a low key and did not comment on the landing.

There was predictable negative response to the historic first landing of an Israeli commercial plane in the Gulf.

The KUNA news agency in nearby Kuwait, traditionally hostile to Israel, did not mention the landing at all.

The news website Arabi 21 that is affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood commented not on the word “peace” in three languages, but rather that the aircraft is named for the small Israeli city of Kiryat Gat. Arabi 21 said the name of the plane emphasized that it was once an Arab town called Fallujah and claiming its residents were deported in Israel’s 1948 War of Independence.

Another Arabi 21 headline claimed that “the Emirates Agreement will now allow Jews to pray in mosques in Jerusalem,” misleading their readers about Jews praying on the Temple Mount, not in the neighboring Al Aqsa mosque.

Social media response in Arabic was mixed with supporters using the hashtag “Welcome to the Emirates, State of Peace” and opponents tweeting that the agreement was simply a “survival exercise of the President of the United States ahead of the election.”

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Some critics wished that the El Al flight would be blown out of the sky, “even though it is equipped with Israeli defense systems.”

Shortly before the El Al plane landed there was an explosion at a KFC restaurant in Dubai, with some web surfers writing that the blast was a “curse on the Emirates” for agreeing to peace with Israel.

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said it was “very painful” to see the flight, which he said was a “clear violation of the Arab position on the Arab-Israeli conflict.”

“We had hoped to see an Emirati plane landing in a liberated Jerusalem,” Shtayyeh added

Maher Mizhar, a leader of the Popular Front terror group in Gaza said: “The landing of the plane will not change reality, and the main enemy of the Arab nation and its territories in the Gulf will remain the Zionist enemy. The agreement is a free gift offered by the traitor, [UAE leader] Muhammad bin Zayd, to enemies Trump and Netanyahu.”