US officials announced Tuesday that the first commercial flight between Israel and the United Arab Emirates is scheduled for next week, carrying American and Israeli delegations to Abu Dhabi after the two countries agreed to normalize relations. The flight, likely on an Israeli El-Al airliner, would carry a U.S. delegation headed by President Donald Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner and national security adviser Robert O'Brien, the officials said.
They said the Israeli delegation would be made up of experts in the fields of aviation, space, health and banking. The officials were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity. It will be the first known direct flight by Israel's state airline to a Gulf Arab country and an important sign of progress in implementing the Aug. 13 agreement by Israel and the UAE to establish official relations.
The flight also would indicate Saudi support for the deal. The Saudis have voiced lukewarm support and until now have not said whether they would allow the two countries to use its airspace for direct flights. Without Saudi acquiescence, flights would likely have to take a roundabout and potentially risky route around Yemen and through the Persian Gulf.
The UAE is just the third Arab country to agree to official relations with Israel, after Egypt and Jordan. Israeli and American officials have expressed hope that other Gulf Arab countries will soon follow suit, with relations based on mutual commercial and security interests, and their shared enmity toward Iran.