Khamenei slams UAE ‘betrayal’ for flight to Israel

Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei blasts UAE after an Etihad Airlines plane with aid for the PA lands in Israel.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

Stung by the surprise public flight of an Arab airline plane landing publicly in Israel, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei lashed out at the United Arab Emirates and accused them of betrayal.

On Tuesday UAE-based Etihad Airways flew a commercial flight carrying 16 tons of aid for Palestinians to Ben Gurion Airport. It was the first known flight between the two countries that have no formal diplomatic relations, although there have been visible back-channel relations for years and Israelis are allowed to travel to the Gulf emirates.

“Today, some Persian Gulf states have committed the biggest treachery against their own history and the history of the Arab world,” Khamenei tweeted. “They have betrayed Palestine by supporting Israel. Will the nations of these states tolerate their leaders’ betrayal?”

Although there are no direct flights between the UAE and Israel, travel between the two countries is not uncommon with passengers switching planes in a third country.

It is not known what prompted the UAE to send the relief material, which had to land in Israel because there are no operating airports in areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority.

State-owned Etihad confirmed it sent the flight to Israel.

“Etihad Airways operated a dedicated humanitarian cargo flight from Abu Dhabi to Tel Aviv on 19 May to provide medical supplies to the Palestinians,” the airline told The Associated Press. “The flight had no passengers on board.”

An Israeli official said the flight would be delivering humanitarian aid provided by the UAE to the Palestinians and that the cargo flight was coordinated with the Israeli government. The official spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the subject.

Last December, Israel and UAE diplomats held a secret meeting at the White House to discuss bilateral issues including Iran.

The predominantly Sunni-Muslim Arab countries have a fractious relationship with Shiite-Iran, which constantly intimidates its Arab neighbors, including a threat in 2018 to bombard not just Israel, but also the UAE and Saudi Arabia, with missile attacks.