Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was at Ben-Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv on Thursday afternoon to greet the first arriving flight operated by Flydubai as it landed in the Jewish State.
"This is the first commercial flight from Dubai to Israel,” Netanyahu said. “It is a historic flight because it now opens the way for dozens of flights a week to Dubai, to the UAE, to Bahrain and to the east; a visa exemption joins this."
"This means that there is a great opening here for trade, the economy and tourism that, in effect, makes for a truly new and different Middle East, a meeting between peoples as well as meeting between leaders," he continued. "We are crumbling the Israeli-Arab conflict and turning it into Israeli-Arab cooperation in order to produce not only a new future but also a new present, and we are doing so with dizzying speed. I think that the entire world is watching and understands that we are making history here, and we can all welcome this."
The budget airline, which operates out of Terminal 2 at Dubai International Airport in the United Arab Emirates, returned to the UAE with 200 Israeli passengers all of whom got to travel without a visa and on their Israelis passports.
“We did it — good evening Dubai! We hope we enjoy it here, visiting for the first time with an Israeli passport,” Liran Shamir and Ren Nagar told Channel 12 news. “There is an excellent attitude here, it’s fun to come. A dream come true.”
Thursday’s flight marked the official launch of the airline’s Tel Aviv-Dubai route, however, the first Flydubai plane landed in Israel earlier this month. Last month, Netanyahu greeted the first ever official UAE delegation to land in the Jewish state. The day before that, the first commercial UAE flight, Etihad, landed in Israel.
Netanyahu noted that that these flights are going over Saudi Arabian airspace thanks to agreement from the Kingdom for flights going to and from Israel to do so, enabling a more direct route.
"I anticipate that the circle of normalization will continue to expand and I say this with great confidence. Nothing is assured 100% but it seems to me that if I need to look forward, I estimate that in the coming months we will see more countries joining this circle, one way or another, on this or that level," he said. "This cannot be stopped. We are not going back. What we are doing here today is historic: The first commercial flight from Dubai to Israel – and not the last. We are going to open dozens of flights in both directions. This is simply not only changing the future of the Middle East and Israel, it is also changing the present."
Tourism industry analysts put the value of two-way visits between Israel, the UAE and Bahrain in the billions of dollars annually. If a normalization agreement with Saudi Arabia similar to the Abraham Accords were to materialize, the economic activity that would be unleashed could easily increase the region’s GDP by hundreds of billions of dollars a year or more, according to some estimates.
The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.