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September 24, 2020

First direct commercial flight from Israel lands in Bahrain

Top Story

September 24, 2020

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates: The first known direct commercial flight between Israel and Bahrain landed Wednesday in the island kingdom, just a week after it signed a deal alongside the United Arab Emirates to normalize relations, foreign media reported.

Flight data showed an Israir Airlines Airbus A320 landed at Bahrain International Airport after a nearly three-hour flight from Tel Aviv’s Ben-Gurion International Airport.

There was no immediate acknowledgement of the flight from the Israeli government, though Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday spoke by telephone to Bahrain’s Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa. Israel’s Foreign Ministry declined to comment.

Bahrain’s state-run media did not immediately acknowledge the flight. Officials on the island off the coast of Saudi Arabia did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The US Embassy in Manama similarly did not respond to a request for comment.

The flight was made without ceremony, in sharp contrast to the first El Al flight from Israel to the United Arab Emirates at the end of August. That plane carried US and Israeli officials, including President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, as well as media. The flight Wednesday comes as Israel has gone back into a lockdown over the coronavirus pandemic. In Bahrain, civil society groups have criticized the move to normalize relations with Israel, saying that recognition should come only after Palestinians obtain their own independent state. Bahrain is home to the US Navy’s 5th Fleet and a British naval base. Bahrain and the UAE signed normalization agreements Sept. 15 with Israel at the White House, part of a US diplomatic push as Trump seeks re-election.

The UAE and Israel have moved quickly to explore commercial ties after their normalization deal, bringing to light a relationship previously kept quiet.

Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa previously had been quoted as saying he believed Arab countries should drop their boycott of Israel.