The Palestinian Authority government has refused to accept medical aid from the United Arab Emirates after it arrived on the first known direct commercial flight between Israel and the UAE, PA sources told multiple Arab media outlets.
The UAE-based airline made history Tuesday, as the plane loaded with 16 tons of coronavirus aid for Palestinians flew directly from Abu Dhabi to Tel Aviv.
Palestinian media, as well as Russia Today Arabic, quoted a government source Thursday saying the aid had been rejected, explaining Ramallah was refusing to be used as a “tool for normalization” between Israel and the UAE. The two countries do not have diplomatic relations.
The source reportedly said the transfer of the medical aid had only been coordinated with Israel and the World Health Organization (WHO), and not with the Palestinian Authority which governs Palestinians in the West Bank.
That, the source claimed, indicated that the UAE intended to use the aid to improve its ties with Jerusalem on the “pretext” of aid to Palestinians.
The source said any assistance to the Palestinian people must be provided through coordination with Palestinian authorities.
The Etihad cargo jet, painted in all white and lacking any marking, landed at Ben-Gurion Airport after seemingly flying a roundabout route through Iraq and either Jordan or Turkey.
Etihad, a state-owned long-haul carrier, confirmed the flight to Ben Gurion Airport. Emirati government officials did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
The flight struck a rare moment of public cooperation between the UAE, home to Abu Dhabi and Dubai on the Arabian Peninsula, and Israel. The two emirates have no formal diplomatic ties to Israel, but have begun to increasingly cooperate openly after years of rumored back-channel discussions between them over the mutual enmity of Iran.
An Israeli official said the flight was delivering humanitarian aid provided by the UAE to the Palestinians through the World Food Program, and that the cargo flight was coordinated with the Israeli government. The official spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the subject.
The UAE’s state-run WAM news agency issued a statement saying it delivered 16 tons of protective gear, medical items and ventilators “to curb the spread of COVID-19 pandemic and its impact in the occupied Palestinian territory.” It did not acknowledge the flight or its significance.
Iran’s top leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called the act a betrayal of the Palestinians.
“Today, some Persian Gulf states have committed the biggest treachery against their own history and the history of the Arab world,” Khamenei tweeted. “They have betrayed #Palestine by supporting Israel. Will the nations of these states tolerate their leaders’ betrayal?”
Today, some Persian Gulf states have committed the biggest treachery against their own history and the history of the Arab world. They have betrayed #Palestine by supporting Israel. Will the nations of these states tolerate their leaders’ betrayal?
— Khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) May 19, 2020
Much of the coordination between Israel and the Gulf states is based on a shared concern over Iran, which has repeatedly threatened to destroy the Jewish state and seeks to exert its hegemony over the region.