DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — The first flight carrying Israeli tourists to the United Arab Emirates landed Sunday in the city-state of Dubai, the latest sign of the normalization deal reached between the two nations.
FlyDubai flight No. FZ8194 landed at Dubai International Airport just after 5:40 p.m., bringing the tourists to the skyscraper-studded city after a nearly three-hour trip. The low-cost carrier had sent one of its Boeing 737s to Ben-Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv earlier Sunday morning to pick up the passengers.
The flight flew across Saudi Arabia and then over the waters of the Persian Gulf to reach the UAE, a federation of seven sheikhdoms also home to Abu Dhabi.
The flight, put together by an Israeli company called Gaya Tours, saw Jewish Israelis and a number of Arab Israelis on board. Many of the Jewish Israelis wore kippah head coverings.
Many of the people on the flight said it was not their first time to the UAE, but all said they were excited to be in Dubai. The tourists were joined by a number of businessmen eager for opportunities in the Emirates.
“There is no doubt that the normalization between Israel and the UAE will bring good things and benefit to the Arabs inside Israel. There is no doubt about that,” said Hussein Suleiman, the head of an Arab businessmen’s delegation on board the flight. “We are supportive of this deal and of the normalization, and we are here today to normalize the normalization in reality.”
The arrival of tourists comes as Dubai in particular tries to revive its vital tourism industry amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The UAE and Israel have agreed to launch regular commercial flights between their countries soon, while other recent flights have carried business and governmental delegations.
FlyDubai plans to begin its flights to Tel Aviv later this month. The airline described Sunday’s flight as a “commercial charter flight” for the incoming tourists, without elaborating.
It comes as Israel and the UAE, which had maintained covert contacts for years, brought their diplomatic relationship out into the open. It signed a normalization deal with Israel alongside Bahrain at a White House ceremony in September, making the them the third and fourth Arab nations to currently have peace with Israel.
But while Egypt and Jordan earlier signed peace deals, the UAE has said it anticipates having a “warm” peace with Israel. The Emirates also hopes the deal with aid its efforts to purchase advanced F-35 fighter jets from the U.S. The deals also unite three nations that remain suspicious of Iran.
However, the agreements did not address the decades-long conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, who view the pacts as a stab in the back from their fellow Arabs and a betrayal of their cause for a Palestinian state. The agreements, which were seen as a foreign policy win for President Donald Trump ahead of the Nov. 3 election, now face the incoming administration of President-elect Joe Biden.
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