Emirates touched down in Israel for the first time on June 23, 2022, marking a historical moment for the Dubai flagship airline as it launched the start of a daily flight service to Tel Aviv. 

Emirates flight EK931, operated on one of the airline’s Boeing 777 aircraft, was welcomed at Ben Gurion Airport (TLV) with a water cannon salute, drawing an audience of travelers, aviation fans and guests from across the industry. 

The inaugural flight is also a remarkable point in history given that Israel and the UAE had been “nominal enemies” for decades. 

The cool relations between the two countries dates back to 1967 following the Arab-Israeli War, also known as the Six-Day war, which ended with Israel capturing the West Bank and East Jerusalem, the Sinai peninsula and the Gaza Strip, and the Golan Heights.

The United Nations brokered a ceasefire with the Security Council Resolution 242, which called for the withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in return for all states in the area to respect one another’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence.

Several attempts at agreements and treaties have been made throughout the decades, but none have been truly successful.

In 2020, then-US President Donald Trump unveiled his administration’s Middle East peace plans, called ‘Peace to Prosperity: a vision to improve the lives of the Palestinian and Israeli people’. The plan’s vision is to bring the “most realistic solution to a problem that has plagued the region for far too long”.

On August 13, 2020, Trump announced that Israel and the United Arab Emirates will fully normalize their diplomatic relations after 49 years. The Israel-United Arab Emirates normalization agreement, also known as the Abraham Accords, was signed in September 2020 at the White House in Washington DC.

Under the normalization, the two countries will exchange embassies and ambassadors, and begin cooperation across the board and in a broad range of areas, including tourism, education, healthcare, trade, and security. 

Since then, Middle Eastern carriers have started inaugural flights to Israel, with Etihad being the first airline in the region to fly to Tel Aviv. It was soon followed by Fly Dubai, which launched its first flight to Tel Aviv in November 2020, and Gulf Air launching flights from Bahrain to Tel Aviv in December 2020. 

Emirates said that strong bilateral relations between the UAE and Israel are evident in the rise of the number of businesses that have been set up after the signing of the historic Abraham Accords. There are currently more than 500 Israeli companies operating in the UAE, and trade between the UAE and Israel is expected to reach USD $2 billion by the end of 2022.

The ties between Israel and the UAE are strategic economic ties and are critical to strengthening our position in face of the changing threats in the Middle East. On my last visit to the UAE, I signed agreements that will facilitate trade and mobility between us, mobility as a tool to empower the citizens and economies of both countries,” Israel’s Minister of Transport and Road Safety MK Merav Michaeli said in a statement.

Michaeli added: “The step we are marking today is far beyond aviation, it is an important political step that blurs the physical boundaries between us and strengthens our mutual commitment.”