THE Australian Jewish community watched in awe on Monday night as history unfolded before their eyes: an El Al passenger plane, carrying the word “peace” in three languages, became the first ever Israeli commercial flight to touch down in the United Arab Emirates, and to cross Saudi Arabian airspace.
On board were high-level Israeli and US delegations heading from Ben Gurion Airport to Abu Dhabi for talks on the recent normalisation agreement.
“The image of an El Al plane, with the flag of Israel proudly displayed on its tail, landing in an Arab capital was an extraordinary sight,” Zionist Federation of Australia president Jeremy Leibler told The AJN.
“That the plane flew through Saudi airspace is another incredible achievement – a true sign that the region is changing.”
Hailing the event as what “promises to be the beginning of a process that will see ordinary Israelis welcomed in every country in the world as equals and a deeper integration of Israel into the Middle East for the good of all the nations of the region,” Executive Council of Australian Jewry co-CEO Alex Ryvchin said, “This moment should be cherished by Jews around the world as a landmark achievement in the history of Zionism and the Jewish State.”
Lauding the prospect of exchanging embassies and a plethora of commercial, tourist and other exchanges “very soon”, Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) executive director Colin Rubenstein described Monday’s flight, and the peace accord generally, as a “hugely positive, watershed development which AIJAC strongly hopes will soon be emulated by other regional nations”.
Federal Liberal MP and former ambassador to Israel Dave Sharma said he was “thrilled” about the flight, telling The AJN it “reflects a regional mindset that is focused more on the future than on the past, and that is more interested in pursuing solutions rather than nursing grievances.
“I encourage the Palestinians to adopt a similar attitude,” he said.
Federal Labor MP Josh Burns added, “Watching El Al land in Abu Dhabi fills us with hope and pride. Israel proves, yet again, that it seeks to be a partner in peace.”
Further coverage in this week’s AJN.