Saudi “departure” that world ignored on historic Israel-UAE flight

3rd September 2020

3rd September 2020

US-Israeli delegation led by Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump's son-in-law and White House advisor, left Ben Gurion International Airport, Tel Aviv on Monday. 

The first historic flight, Flight number 971 of Israel's national carrier El Al had the officials on board who were going to mark the normalisation of relations between the Jewish state and the UAE. 

But a major departure ignored was that Saudi Arabia had allowed the flight to cross its airspace, a political unthinkable even a month ago. “This is the first time this has ever happened. I would like to thank the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for making that possible,” Kushner, US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, said on arrival in Abu Dhabi.

The stickers of word “peace”  were. pasted in Arabic, English and Hebrew on the cockpit of the El Al flight that landed in the Emirates capital, where US flags flew alongside the Star of David banner.

It is also named after Kiryat Gat, a city built on the remains of two ethnically cleansed Palestinian villages, Iraq al-Manshiyya and al-Faluja.

“While this is a historic flight, we hope that it will start an even more historic journey in the Middle East and beyond,” Kushner, a key architect of Trump’s Middle East policy, said before boarding.

“The future does not have to be predetermined by the past. This is a very hopeful time.” Kushner urged the Palestinians, who have condemned the UAE deal as a betrayal of their cause, to come to the negotiating table.

“When they are ready, the whole region is very excited to help lift them up and move them forward. But they can’t be stuck in the past, they have to come to the table,” he said.

The UAE has never fought a war with Israel unlike Egypt, which made peace with its former battlefield enemy in 1979, and Jordan, which followed in 1994, 

Gulf Arab nations have had increasingly publicly ties with Israel in recent years, boosted by their shared rivalry with Iran and the advantages of linking their powerful economies.

Though Saudi Arabia, following its decades old policy,  has said that it will not normalise ties until Israel has signed a peace deal establishing an independent Palestinian state, the emergence of Shia Iran as a regional power centre and economic powerhouse has compelled the Saudis to think on different lines.  

“Peace is not an empty word used to normalise crimes and oppression,” Saeb Erekat, secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, said.

The Prime Minister of Palestine Mohammed Shtayyeh, while the plane was flying overhead, said that he is hurt and this is a blatant violation of Arab position. 

Hamas spokesperson Hazem Qassen said the UAE-Israel deal went against the position of the Emirati people, and was "in Zionist interests only ... fuelling disagreements in the region".

Jared Kushner, on the other hand, while talking to The Telegraph said, “we are all children of God and future is not to be determined by past. The very few who have been critical of this peace agreement are the ones under long track record of failure and trapping  their own people in misery and poverty”. 

“There are many more unpublicised meetings with Arab and Muslim leaders to normalise relations with the State of Israel,” Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, without naming any country.

US National Security Advisor Robert O'Brien said on Sunday more Arab and Muslim countries were likely to follow Abu Dhabi's move.

Recent news reports suggested Morocco may also be considering a similar agreement with Israel in exchange for military and economic aid. He did not name the states, but Israeli officials have publicly mentioned Oman, Bahrain and Sudan.

However, Moroccan Prime Minister Saad Eddine el-Othmani said last week, "We refuse any normalisation with the Zionist entity because this emboldens it to go further in breaching the rights of the Palestinian people".

As part of the normalisation agreement, Israel agreed to suspend its planned annexations in the occupied West Bank, although Netanyahu quickly insisted the plans remained on the table in the long run.

Along with the planned annexations by Israel, another bump in normalisation of relations between these two states is sale of F-35 planes to UAE, which Israel is resisting. 

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