The UAE’s Etihad Airways has sent a plane of aid to Israel, purportedly carrying sixteen tons of aid for Palestinians.
Israeli media has hailed a historic flight that has flown between the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Tel Aviv, landing at Ben-Gurion Airport, 9PM on Tuesday 19 May.
The Etihad cargo jet, which was not carrying its identifiable hallmark logos, is the first-known direct flight between the countries.
The UAE doesn’t officially recognise Israel, however, the UN-facilitated flight was on an apparent humanitarian mission carrying sixteen tons of aid inbound for the occupied Palestinian territories.
A lack of diplomatic ties between Israel and the UAE hasn’t stopped either side from attempting to open lines of communication.
In an interview last year, the UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Anwar Gargash, told the UAE-based newspaper, The National, “Many, many years ago, when there was an Arab decision not to have contact with Israel, that was a very, very wrong decision, looking back.”
Before the coronavirus pandemic struck, Israel was expecting to participate in the Dubai Expo 2020 for the first time.
The Israeli Foreign Ministry welcomed the country’s participation in which it was due to showcase its technology.
Iranian Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has, however, condemned the first flight between the two countries as a form of “treachery” and a “betrayal” of the Palestinian people.
On Twitter, Khamenei said: “Today, some Persian Gulf states have committed the biggest treachery against their own history and the history of the Arab world. They have betrayed #Palestine by supporting Israel.”
Today, some Persian Gulf states have committed the biggest treachery against their own history and the history of the Arab world. They have betrayed #Palestine by supporting Israel. Will the nations of these states tolerate their leaders’ betrayal?— Khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) May 19, 2020
The move also sparked a Twitter hashtag #BoycottUAE with many online social media users seeing the move as an attempt towards normalisation between the countries.
In a statement, the Etihad spokeswoman said, “Etihad Airways operated a dedicated humanitarian cargo flight from Abu Dhabi to Tel Aviv on May 19 to provide medical supplies to the Palestinians,” adding that there were no passengers on board.
Palestinians officials have not confirmed receiving the UAE shipment and it is unclear whether any of the aid will go to occupied Gaza that suffers the most from a crippling blockade ruled by Hamas and hated by the Gulf monarchy.
Only Egypt and Jordan openly recognise Israel in the region, while no other Middle Eastern countries officially maintain ties with the country.
The position to boycott Israel has been waning in recent years as even countries like Saudi Arabia under the Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, are warming to the idea of a normalisation of ties between its two countries.