On May 18 Etihad operated its first ever flight to Israel, flying an Airbus A330 full of cargo from Abu Dhabi to Tel Avvi carrying supplies including ventilators bound for the Palestinian territory. However the Palestinian authority rejected the shipment because the U.A.E. coordinated the shipment with Israel, rather than directly with them.
They believed they were being ‘used’ as cover for normalizing relations between the U.A.E. and Israel, which would hurt their bargaining position with the Jewish state.
On Tuesday Etihad tried again, operating a Boeing 787-9 as flight EY9607. And while the first plane flew without any Etihad markings at all, this aircraft had Etihad’s livery. There was nothing secret about the shipments.
We hope that future ETIHAD flights landing here will be carrying #UAE tourists.
📷: Moni Shafir & IAA pic.twitter.com/j6KXjZRpV8
— Yuval Rotem 🇮🇱 (@Yuval_Rotem) June 9, 2020
And again the Palestinian Authority rejected the supplies. The cargo flight landed in Tel Aviv, since the U.A.E. and Israel do not even have diplomatic relations let alone an air service agreement coordination was required. And the aid was handled by the U.N., not by the Israeli government.
However once again the Palestinian Authority objected because it was “coordinated directly between Israel and them. We were not part of the coordination” according to Palestinian civil affairs minister Hussein al-Sheikh.
A U.N. official suggesed that supplies were most needed in the Gaza Strip, where Hamas “holds sway” making it even more difficult for the Palestinian Authority to accept supplies. However cargo flights have little possibility of entering the territory without landing in Israel – Yasser Arafat International Airport in Gaza was decommissioned two decades ago. Israel bombed the airport’s control tower after a terrorist attack that killed Israeli soldiers following the Second Intifada.
It’s not possible to fly cargo to Egypt and bring it into Gaza – while the El Arish International Airport in Egypt is just over 20 miles away, the Rafah Border Crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip allows people to move across but not cargo. The Kerem Shalom border crossing at the junction of the Gaza Strip–Israel and Gaza–Egypt borders is run by the Israel Airports Authority, and so moving cargo would still involve coordination with Israel – even if the flight had landed in Egypt.
Whether the Palestinian Authority accepts supplies or not, there have now been two cargo flights between the U.A.E. and Israel which itself represents a thawing of relations.