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Israel, Bahrain ink agreement for weekly direct flights

Reports indicate flights could take off within weeks; officials hail move as major milestone toward establishment of bilateral tourism, trade

National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat (L) and US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin disembark from a plane upon their arrival at the Bahraini International Airport on October 18, 2020. (Ronen Zvulun/Pool/AFP)
National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat (L) and US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin disembark from a plane upon their arrival at the Bahraini International Airport on October 18, 2020. (Ronen Zvulun/Pool/AFP)

Israel and Bahrain signed an aviation agreement on Thursday for weekly direct flights between Tel Aviv and Manama, following the normalization deal inked between the countries last month.

The agreement calls for the two countries to operate up to 14 weekly flights between the airports, as they seek to establish bilateral trade and tourism ties.

The agreement will also enable five weekly cargo flights along with an unlimited number of flights between Manama and Israel’s Ramon Airport, near Eilat, according to a statement from the Israeli Transportation Ministry.

“The historic peace agreements we have brought are advancing rapidly and by huge strides,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a statement, saying that the aviation deal would “greatly strengthen tourism and trade between [our countries] and all Israeli citizens will benefit from it.”

“This is what real peace looks like: peace for peace, economy for economy,” Netanyahu added, using an oft-repeated slogan to describe the normalization agreement as a paradigm shift from peace deals in exchange for concessions.

Transportation Minister Miri Regev said that the agreement will lead to the eventual formation of “express routes” between the two countries that will allow passengers to travel from Ben Gurion Airport to Manama in roughly three hours.

UAE delegates wave to the departing El Al plane at the end of Israel-UAE normalization talks in Abu Dhabi, September 1, 2020. (El Al Spokesperson’s Office)

Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi called the agreement “a partnership between equals that will lead to the beginning of a wave of business, economy, tourism, the promotion of Israeli assets, the presentation of its beautiful face and our outstretched hand for peace between us and the countries of the region.”

No official comment from Bahraini officials was immediately available.

Thursday’s deal was signed just four days after a similar agreement was inked with the United Arab Emirates, which announced its normalization with Israel less than a month before Bahrain.

The Israel-UAE aviation deal will enable 28 weekly flights between Tel Aviv and Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

The agreement will also enable 10 weekly cargo flights, with unlimited charter flights between the UAE and Eilat.

Last week, the UAE’s Etihad Airways launched a Hebrew-language website, with high hopes for burgeoning tourism and business trade.

Israeli carrier Israir announced last month that it will offer direct flights from Ben Gurion Airport to Abu Dhabi. Israeli national carrier El Al will also reportedly offer flights on the route.

Local authorities in Abu Dhabi have instructed all hotels in the city to prepare kosher food options ahead of the expected influx of tourists from Israel.

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