The direct flight follows the August 13 announcement of a US-brokered agreement to normalise relations between the two countries.

El Al, the Israeli national carrier, made the first-ever commercial flight between Israel and UAE on August 31, 2020.
El Al, the Israeli national carrier, made the first-ever commercial flight between Israel and UAE on August 31, 2020. (AFP)

The UAE and Israel are opening their doors to a wide range of business opportunities after the surprise agreement to normalise relations.

The two states have long forged commercial and technology links, but with the arrival of a joint US-Israeli delegation on Monday they can now work out in the open.

"We came here to transform a vision into a reality. There are no limits to cooperation ... in education, innovation, health, aviation, agriculture, energy and many other fields," Israeli National Security Advisor Meir Ben-Shabbat said in Abu Dhabi.

Here are some key areas where Israel and its new Arab partner share economic interests.

Covid-19 research 

The two already collaborate on research in various fields and even before the deal was announced on August 13, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his country was working with the United Arab Emirates on ways to combat coronavirus.
Last month, two Israeli companies signed a deal with an Emirati firm to work together on the development of a non-invasive coronavirus screening test.

Oil sales 

The Gulf state's immense oil reserves are a big draw for Israel, whose best source of oil currently is Kurdish crude from Iraq, said Ellen R Wald, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council's Global Energy Center.

Gulf Arab countries have always refused to sell oil to Israel, and so far no other governments in the region have followed the UAE move to establish ties.

Tourism

Expanding two-way tourism is a key focus of the post-accord trade push.

With some popular majority-Muslim tourism destinations currently off-limits to Israelis, the millions who go abroad each year typically head to Europe or the US.

Now those travellers will be able to take a short flight to the resorts and attractions that line the Emirati coast.

Israel also wants to lure business for its own tourism industry, especially to the Mediterranean metropolis of Tel Aviv, and to attract Muslim visitors to Jerusalem's Al Aqsa Mosque compound, Islam's third-holiest site.

Tech and start-ups

Israel's high-tech sector — an industry that has earned it the nickname "start-up nation" — makes up more than 40 percent of the country's exports.

The UAE has forged a similar reputation, with more than a third of the start-ups in the Middle East and North Africa reported to be based in the country, and seeks to be a powerhouse in the technology sector.

The UAE, especially the glitzy emirate of Dubai, attracts such companies because of its accommodating environment, with government support and investment.

The US-backed deal also provides a new destination for Emirati investment funds at a time when the UAE economy has stalled in recent years.

Water and food security 

The arid UAE is dependent on desalinated water, with its needs ever-increasing, while Israel is home to world-leading desalination firms including IDE Technologies, which has 400 plants in 40 countries.

Since the UAE-Israel deal, the two countries have agreed to open a direct channel and "collaborate in areas of food and water security," according to official Emirati news agency WAM.

Another area is smart farming, as the UAE — home to nine million people with varied tastes, but with little arable land and extreme temperatures — wants to overcome its dependence on food imports.

Security and surveillance

Israeli cyber surveillance firms are eyeing the market in the Gulf, where they are already believed to be doing business with the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain — all staunch US allies.

Israel is home to several leading surveillance companies, including spyware firm NSO Group, which developed the sophisticated eaves dropping Pegasus tool.

The UAE is also a base for security, surveillance and data analysis companies, and it has set up a formidable "Falcon Eye" security monitoring system.

US-Israeli delegation lands in UAE on historic flight

A Star of David-adorned El Al plane has landed in the United Arab Emirates, carrying a high-ranking American and Israeli delegation from Israel in the first-ever direct commercial passenger flight between the two countries.

Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump's son-in-law and White House adviser, was on board Flight 971 of Israel's national carrier as part of the delegation who were to meet with UAE officials on Monday.

Jared Kushner said on Monday that the United States could maintain Israel's qualitative military edge while advancing its relations with the United Arab Emirates.

Kushner also said Palestinians should come to the negotiating table. He made his comments after landing in Abu Dhabi airport, after making the first official Israeli flight from Tel Aviv to the UAE.

He added that the peace forged by Emirati and Israeli leaders was also desired by the two countries' peoples.

Kushner also thanked Saudi Arabia for granting permission for the first official Israeli flight from Tel Aviv to the United Arab Emirates. 

"This is the first time this has ever happened, I would like to thank the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for making that possible," said Kushner.

The flight from Tel Aviv follows the August 13 announcement of a US-brokered agreement to normalise relations between the two countries, making the UAE the first Gulf country and only the third Arab state to establish relations with Israel after Egypt and Jordan.

The UAE is the first Arab country to establish full diplomatic relations with Israel in more than 25 years. It reflects a shifting Middle East in which shared concerns over Iran have overtaken traditional wall-to-wall Arab support for the Palestinians. 

“While this is a historic flight, we hope that this will start an even more historic journey for the Middle East and beyond,” Kushner told reporters before boarding the plane.

The American delegation includes Kushner, as well as national security adviser Robert O’Brien, Mideast envoy Avi Berkowitz and envoy for Iran Brian Hook. Israel will be represented by national security adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat and the director generals of several ministries, who will meet with their Emirati counterparts.

Meir Ben-Shabbat, Israel’s national security adviser and head of the Israeli delegation, said he was excited about the trip and that the aim was to lay the groundwork for cooperation in areas like tourism, medicine, technology and trade.

“This morning the traditional greeting of ‘go in peace’ takes on a special significance for us," he said.

A first for many

The El Al flight, numbered LY971 as a gesture to the UAE’s international calling code number, flew into Saudi Arabian airspace shortly after takeoff and later passed over the capital, Riyadh. That marked another historic first for Israel and at least an acquiescence by the kingdom for the UAE's move.

Saudi King Salman, along with other Gulf Arab leaders to varying degrees, maintain their boycotts of Israel in support of Palestinians obtaining an independent state. Any long-term flights between Israel and the UAE would require Saudi clearance to be profitable.

Otherwise, the three-hour-and 20-minute-long flight would take more than seven hours.

Corona swag and anti-missile systems

"Wishing us all salaam, peace and shalom, have a safe flight," the pilot, Captain Tal Becker, said on the intercom, in Arabic, English and Hebrew, using all three languages to also announce the flight number and destination.

Passengers received swag bags filled with coronavirus protection gear – disinfectant gel and wipes – and some donned face masks emblazoned with the Israeli and Emirati flags.

A spokesman for El Al said the plane was equipped with a C-Music anti-missile system on its rear carriage – standard for the 737s in the carrier's fleet.

Promise of weapons and deals

But the high-profile flight on Monday, eagerly promoted by US officials, looks to place a solid stamp on the surprise August 13 White House announcement of Israel and the UAE establishing ties.

Since then, telephone calls were connected, and the UAE’s ruler issued a decree formally ending the country’s decades-long boycott of Israel. 

Some Israeli firms have already signed deals with Emirati counterparts, but Monday’s visit is expected to usher in a slew of further business cooperation.

The official repeal of the boycott looks to open the door to more joint ventures, such as in aviation, banking and finance.

The UAE has touted the deal as a tool to force Israel into halting its contentious plan to annex parts of the West Bank sought by the Palestinians for their future state. It also may help the Emirates acquire advanced US weapons systems that have been previously unattainable, such as the F-35 fighter jet. 

Currently, Israel is the only country in the region with the stealth warplanes.

Overriding Palestinian opposition

The Palestinians, however, have fiercely opposed the normalization as peeling away one of their few advantages in moribund peace talks with Israel.

Palestinians have held public protests and burned the UAE flag in anger.

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,” he added.

Israelis eagerly anticipate the prospect of mutual embassies, expanding tourism to the Gulf and solidifying business opportunities with another country that shares its penchant for technology and innovation.

READ MORE: UAE cancels Israel boycott, opens doors to flights, business and embassies

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has touted the deal as validation of his vision that regional peace doesn’t have to go through Palestinian acquiescence and come at the cost of ceding land. 

But he has come under fire from supporters at home for seemingly giving up on dreams of annexation and tacitly agreeing to a questionable arms sale that could undermine Israel’s regional superiority. Netanyahu denies such a deal exists.

In a Facebook post, Netanyahu said on Monday “is a historic day for the state of Israel that I have worked to achieve for decades."

For Trump, the accord delivers a key foreign policy victory as he faces a tough reelection campaign.

On Sunday, Kushner said “the stage is now set” for other Arab countries to follow the UAE. However, he gave no indication that any other deals are imminent, despite a swing through the region last week by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

READ MORE: 'Many more' secret talks with Arab leaders on ties: Israeli PM

Three killed, several hurt in two UAE restaurant blasts

At least three people were killed and several others were injured in two separate explosions in the UAE's capital Abu Dhabi and its tourism hub Dubai, the police and local media said.

The Abu Dhabi government media office said two people were killed in the blast in the capital, which the National daily reported had hit the KFC and Hardees restaurants on the city's Rashid bin Saeed Street.

The street is also a main road to the airport, where President Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu are expected to land later on Monday, in a historic trip between Israel and another Arab country. 

The police said the Abu Dhabi incident also caused several minor and moderate injuries, and residents of the building and surrounding areas were evacuated. 

The Abu Dhabi government media office said the blast was caused by a "misalignment in the gas container fittings following refuelling."

Photos published on social and local media showed extensive damage to the two restaurants with a white plume of smoke rising from the ground floor of the building.

In Dubai, one person was killed when a gas cylinder exploded in a restaurant early on Monday, local media reported.

Abu Dhabi-owned The National newspaper, quoting a Dubai Civil Defence spokesperson, said the blast in Dubai had caused a blaze that damaged the ground floor of the building. The fire was under control within 33 minutes, it added.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies