Coronavirus gives Gulf states excuse to embrace Israel

The coronavirus pandemic has provided an opportunity for increased normalization of ties between Israel and Gulf states.

A flight from Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, landed at Israel’s Ben Gurion airport Tuesday night, carrying coronavirus aid facilitated by the United Nations.

This is the first known commercial flight to travel between the two countries.

Etihad Airways flight EY9607 was carrying 16 tons of medical supplies to be delivered to the Palestinian Authority.

An unnamed Israeli official told The Times of Israel that the flight was carrying aid provided by the UAE through the UN’s World Food Program, adding that the flight was coordinated with the Israeli government.

There were no passengers on board, a spokesperson for the airline told Reuters.

The plane flew “a roundabout route” over Iraq and either Jordan or Turkey before landing in Tel Aviv, according to The Times of Israel:

The aircraft appeared to be painted all white and stripped of its company logo and livery.

Jets flying between Israel and Arab states with which Israel has no formal diplomatic relations often stop at a third location, such as Amman’s Queen Alia airport, to whitewash the flight’s record. However, this appears to have been a direct flight.

The UAE and Israel have no formal ties, but secret relations date back decades.

Saudi Arabia has led Gulf states in increasingly open normalization with Israel in recent years.

This normalization has been driven by the mutual animosity towards Iran.

Danny Danon, the Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, celebrated the occurrence and hoped it would open doors for more normalization between the two countries.

“Hopefully soon, we will see passenger flights, too,” he said on Twitter.

“Having visited, I know the UAE is a fascinating place, and look to continue improving relations between our countries.”

Medical cooperation

Earlier this month, the UAE ambassador at the United Nations, Lana Zaki Nusseibeh, participated in a webinar organized by major Israel lobby group the American Jewish Committee and the publication Jewish Insider.

During the event, Israeli journalist Barak Ravid asked Nusseibeh if she could confirm reports that the UAE and other Gulf countries have cooperated with Israeli doctors on the pandemic.

“I am not aware directly of any cooperation around the coronavirus,” Nusseibeh said.

“One of the things I would say about our perspective in science and tackling this pandemic is that it shouldn’t know any borders or boundaries.”

Nusseibeh went on to affirm that her country has “had Israeli medics participate in previous events in the UAE – that wouldn’t be unusual – and I’m sure there’s a lot of scope for collaboration.”

The UAE ambassador then congratulated Israeli doctors on claimed advances in research on COVID-19 treatments.

Reports in Israeli media earlier this month indicated that the UAE, Bahrain and a third unnamed country have been cooperating with Israeli doctors at Sheba Medical Center near Tel Aviv.

Joint military exercises

The UAE and Israel have previously engaged in joint military exercises, and the Emirates actually purchased two surveillance jets from an Israeli billionaire to spy on Iran.

A United Arab Emirates cyberespionage company with ties to the government has also been hiring veterans of the Israeli military’s cyberwarfare unit.

Israel was also set to participate in this year’s Expo 2020 in Dubai, which has been delayed due to the pandemic.




Interesting that the people of Gaza are held captive because they are Arabs. Interesting that the Palestinians are seen as inferior because they are Arabs (two-legged beasts), yet at the same time Israel can make these kind of arrangements with the leaders of Arab nations. The same kind of bizarre conjunction exists in the support of the German AFD or the Austrian far-right for Israel: people with sympathy for Hitler, who believe in extreme nationalism ( recall that Hitler's accusation against people who upheld universal values, whether they were socialists or liberals was that doing so prevented them being faithful to their own nation) wrap themselves in the Jewish flag. All this confuses the general public which is very ill-informed thanks to a media which complies with Israeli-US distortion, and also an education system which colludes with the same. Children in UK schools when they are taught about the Middle East, aren't told there is such a place as Palestine, such a people as the Palestinians. The Palestinians are wiped off the map. How to unravel the confusion? Simple: nationalism in the service of the wealthy is what lies behind these seemingly odd relationships. The worldwide movement for equal rights, the movement to give the common folk control over their own lives is the contrary. The rulers of the Gulf States have the same interest in injustice as those of Israel. The far-right in Europe shares that interest. It is the interest which concentrates money and power in few hands. Apparent opposites blend, ostensible enemies become friends when their aim is to undermine the campaign for global equality. Arabs are Israel's enemies when they are displaced, oppressed Palestinians and Israel's friends when they are obscenely rich rulers of anti-democratic states where foreign workers are treated almost like slaves and the common people have no access to due process if they are punished for resistance. Marriages of convenience are never happy. Principle must rule

Tamara Nassar

Tamara Nassar is an assistant editor at The Electronic Intifada.