Israeli president extends Jerusalem invite to Abu Dhabi’s crown prince

Rivlin sends official invitation as Netanyahu says direct flights over Saudi airspace in the works.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin on Monday issued a formal invitation for the leader of the United Arab Emirates to visit Jerusalem to celebrate the upcoming formalization of diplomatic relations with the Gulf Arab country.

“I sent a letter to Crown Prince @MohamedBinZayed and invited him to visit Jerusalem. I am hopeful that the agreement between our countries will help build and strengthen the trust between us and the peoples of the region, bring economic benefit and regional stability,” Rivlin tweeted.

Rivlin, known as an Arabic speaker who has pushed for better relations with Israel’s Arab communities, also tweeted a message in Arabic to the Emirati leader and his people.

“I wrote to the Crown Prince that I have no doubt that future generations will appreciate the way in which you, the courageous and wise leaders, have promised to launch a discourse of peace, trust and dialogue between peoples and religions, and to promote cooperation. I do not hide my hope that this step will lead the way for others as well,” Rivlin said.

In advance of Israel reopening air travel to a limited number of countries, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu toured Ben Gurion International Airport and said that the UAE was a central target destination for Israel.

“We are now working on allowing direct flights between Tel Aviv and Dubai and Abu Dhabi, over Saudi Arabia. It is a very short flight, around three hours, like a flight to Rome but it will change Israeli air travel and the Israeli economy with a great wave of tourism in both directions, with investments of great magnitude,” Netanyahu said.

With the exception of Egypt and Jordan, which have peace treaties with Israel, Arab countries maintain the status of a state of war with Israel and refuse to allow passenger planes to fly through their airspace to and from the Jewish state. Instead, flights are sometimes several hours longer so that planes fly a path that remains over international waters or friendly countries.

Saudi Arabia allowing airline overflights would be a huge benefit for air travel to Israel, especially from Asia where the fastest route is through Saudi airspace.

“I estimate that we will reach an agreement that will genuinely allow direct flights between Tel Aviv and Dubai,” Netanyahu said. “This will open the entire Israeli tourism and air travel market, and also investments, on a magnitude the likes of which we have not seen.

Netanyahu said the UAE is interested in “massive” investment in Israeli technology, real estate and tourism.

The prime minister patted himself on the back, saying the peace deal with the UAE that is expected to be signed at the White House in the coming weeks was achieved without giving any “dangerous concessions that jeopardize both the peace and our existence.”

Netanyahu called it “a different peace,” saying that instead of the old ‘land-for-peace’ model, he had achieved “peace for peace, the peace of two countries that respect themselves, esteem each other and cooperate.”