The first commercial flight from Tel Aviv to Abu Dhabi carrying officials from Israel and the US, including President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner, landed at the UAE capital on Monday.
The El Al flight, numbered LY971 as a gesture to the UAE’s international calling code number, flew over Saudi Arabia, marking the first time an Israeli commercial plane uses the kingdom’s airspace for an overflight.
American and Israeli delegations are holding talks with Emirati officials in a bid to put final touches to the August 13 UAE-Israel deal to establish full diplomatic relations.
Palestinian officials and resistance groups expressed their outrage at the flight and denounced it as a stab in the nation’s back.
Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said the Palestinians were “deeply pained” to see an Israeli aircraft land in the UAE, adding that the flight was a “clear and blatant violation of the Arab position regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict.”
The Palestinians “were hoping to see an Emirati aircraft land in the liberated city of Jerusalem [al-Quds],” he noted. “But we are living in the difficult Arab era.”
Shtayyeh also praised Arab states that have refused to emulate the UAE and normalize ties with the Israeli regime.
“On this occasion, we salute the Arab positions rejecting free normalization with Israel,” he said. “The Arabs foiled the recent trip of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo despite the pressure exerted on some Arab countries.”
The premier also complained that the Palestinian Authority has not received financial aid from Arab countries since the beginning of this year.
“All the American financial aid to us and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees has stopped,” he said. “In addition, Israel is trying to blackmail us regarding the tax-revenue funds. We will have to take a $350 million loan from the banks to pay half of the salaries to our employees.”
Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took to Twitter to say, “That’s what peace for peace looks like.” He was referring to the UAE-Israel deal, which does not entail the handover of land that Israel occupied in the 1967 Middle East war.
In response, Secretary General of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Saeb Erekat stressed that peace could not be reached through denying the Palestinians’ right.
“Peace is not an empty word used to normalize crimes and oppression. Peace is the outcome of justice,” he tweeted.
“Peace is not made by denying Palestine’s right to exist and imposing an apartheid regime. Apartheid is what Netanyahu means by peace for peace.”
Similarly, the Gaza-based Hamas resistance movement said the Israeli flight to the UAE represented a “stab in the back of the Palestinian people, a prolonging of the occupation, and a betrayal of the resistance of the (Palestinian) people.”
The Israeli delegation’s “trip comes in light of the escalation of Zionist crimes targeting the city of Jerusalem and the blessed al-Aqsa Mosque and in light of the strengthening of settlements and the theft of land,” it said in a statement.
Hamas further called on the Arabs to take practical measures to confront the “conspiracy,” saying, “The rulers of Abu Dhabi insist on continuing the sin of normalization by signing a disgraceful agreement with the Zionist entity.”
Additionally, the Islamic Jihad movement, which is also headquartered in the Gaza Strip, censured the Israeli delegation’s visit to the UAE, emphasizing that it “reflects a state of political and moral downfall and a setback in the history of the United Arab Emirates.”
The Israel-UAE accord was a “stab in the back” of the Palestinian people, it added. “It is shameful for the United Arab Emirates to receive a Zionist delegation while the Gaza Strip and Jerusalem [al-Quds] is being devoured by the Jews.”
In Ramallah, the National and Islamic Forces, an alliance of various Palestinian factions, denounced the visit of the Israeli delegation to the UAE as a “betrayal of the Palestinian cause.”
Senior Fatah official Monir al-Jaghoub said the Palestinians were very disappointed with the UAE for normalizing ties with Israel.
“The rulers of the United Arab Emirates have registered their names in the black pages of Arab history,” he said. “Anyone who betrays Palestine and forges an alliance with the occupation will end up in the dustbin of history.”
Israeli officials hope the trip will produce a date for a signing ceremony in Washington, perhaps in mid-September, between Netanyahu and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
In a joint statement issued on Monday, the US, Israel and the UAE claimed that normalization deal was “a courageous step toward a more stable, integrated, and prosperous Middle East.”
“Today we have witnessed the first commercial flight by Israel’s El Al airlines to the UAE, carrying both Israeli officials and media. Tomorrow, Emirati, Israeli and American officials will begin discussing bilateral technical cooperation in seven key areas: investment, finance, health, the civilian space program, civil aviation, foreign policy and diplomatic affairs, and tourism and culture,” the statement read.