Tel Aviv – The first direct flight between Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) took off on Monday morning, almost three weeks after the two countries sealed a historic diplomatic deal.
The flight, operated by Israeli airline El Al, took off at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport to Abu Dhabi.
The plane, a Boeing 737-900 named after the central Israeli town, Kiryat Gat, had the word “peace” written in Arabic, English and Hebrewa above the pilot’s side window.
The pilot, Tal Becker, told journalists it was the most exciting flight of his life and “a very special feeling’’.
The passengers included a large Israeli delegation, United States government advisor, Jared Kushner, and the security advisors of the U.S. and Israel, Robert O’Brien and Meir Ben-Shabbat among others.
The aircraft was reportedly fitted with anti-rocket protection systems for security.
Talks are scheduled between the delegations of Israel, the UAE and the U.S. upon arrival, covering a wide range of topics from tourism to finance, with the aim of signing several cooperation agreements.
A meeting of O’Brien and Ben-Shabbat with the Emirati Security Advisor, Tahnoun bin Zayed, is also on the schedule.
A return flight is planned for Tuesday.
On Aug. 13, Israel and the UAE announced a U.S.-brokered agreement to establish diplomatic ties in return for Israel suspending a controversial plan to annex parts of the occupied West Bank.
The deal makes the UAE the third Arab country after Egypt and Jordan – and the first Arab Gulf country – to have diplomatic links with Israel.