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US-Israeli delegation leaves UAE after ‘historic’ visit

A US-Israeli delegation left Abu Dhabi Tuesday after a historic visit to discuss future ties between the UAE and the Jewish state following their landmark American-brokered deal to establish relations.

The United Arab Emirates and Israel are expected to sign the agreement — Israel’s first with a Gulf nation and only its third with an Arab state — at the White House in coming weeks.

Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and White House advisor, led the delegation that arrived in the Emirati capital Monday on the first ever direct commercial flight from Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv.

The Israeli press celebrated the historic flight, which was also allowed to cross the airspace of Saudi Arabia.

“The flight of peace” ran the front-page headline of top-selling Yediot Aharonot daily, which said in a commentary that “no matter how we look at it … this is a fascinating historic event”.

Elsewhere the UAE-Israel agreement again drew criticism after the Palestinians condemned it as a stab in the back by a major Arab player while they still lack a state of their own.

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei charged on Twitter that “the UAE betrayed the world of Islam, the Arab nations, the region’s countries, and Palestine”.

Kushner also visited a UAE air base Tuesday where the US operates F-35 stealth fighter jets coveted by Abu Dhabi — the thorniest issue in the Emirates’ newly established ties with Israel.

Israel has denied reports that the deal hinges on the sale of US F-35s to the UAE, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying he opposes a move that could reduce its strategic edge in the region.

Kushner said Monday that the US could maintain that edge “while also advancing our military relationship with the United Arab Emirates” and that the issue would be discussed further in coming weeks.

– ‘Broad cooperation’ –

US, Israeli and UAE officials said they had discussed cooperation in investment, finance, health, space exploration, civil aviation, foreign policy and tourism and culture.

“The result will be broad cooperation between two of the region’s most innovative and dynamic economies,” the trio said in a statement.

The national security advisors, Israel’s Meir Ben-Shabbat and the UAE’s Sheikh Tahnoun bin Zayed, joined Kushner for the talks on cooperation between the two highly developed Middle East economies.

It was unclear whether Kushner would return to Tel Aviv or fly on to another country.

The jet of Israeli carrier El Al had the word “peace” written on the cockpit in Arabic, English and Hebrew.

The aircraft itself was named after the Israeli city of Kiryat Gat — a point seized on by Palestinian prime minister Mohammed Shtayyeh.

“It pains us deeply to see an Israeli plane land in the UAE with the name of Kiryat Gat, a settlement built on (Palestinian) lands of Al-Faluja … in a clear and blatant breach of the Arab position on the Arab-Israeli conflict,” he said.

The UAE is only the third Arab nation to normalise ties with Israel, after Egypt and Jordan.

Its ally Saudi Arabia has said it will not normalise relations until Israel agrees on the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, in keeping with the decades-old stance of most Arab nations.

Under the normalisation agreement with the UAE, Israel agreed to suspend its planned annexations in the occupied West Bank — but Netanyahu has insisted the plans remain on the table.