First EgyptAir flight to Israel lands at Ben Gurion Airport

Egyptian flag carrier replaces Air Sinai and will operate four flights a week to Israel

An EgyptAir aircraft at Ben Gurion Airport on Sunday. Four flights are planned each week. AP Photo
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Egypt’s national carrier EgyptAir on Sunday made its first flight to Israel since the neighbours signed a peace treaty 42 years ago, Egyptian and Israeli media reported.

The Egyptian government had used Air Sinai, a subsidiary of EgyptAir, to fly unmarked aircraft between Cairo and Ben Gurion Airport on the outskirts of Israeli capital Tel Aviv, since the early 1980s.

The Air Sinai flights were suspended last year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Egypt was the first Arab state to sign a peace treaty with Israel, in 1979, a move that saw it ostracised for several years by most Arab states.

Jordan followed suit in 1994.

Last year, the UAE, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco agreed to normalise relations with Israel.

On Thursday, Bahrain's Gulf Air launched its first direct flight between Manama and Tel Aviv, following Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid’s landmark visit to Bahrain.

Sunday’s EgyptAir flight – the airline will fly to Ben Gurion Airport four times a week – marks a milestone in Egypt-Israel relations, which have long been labelled a “cold peace” because of the lack of large-scale interaction between Israelis and Egyptians.

The two governments, however, have for years closely co-ordinated on security issues, such as human, arms and drug trafficking across their border in the Sinai Peninsula.

Egyptian leaders have been wary of meeting their Israeli counterparts in public, fearing a backlash at home.

Last month, President Abdel Fatah El Sisi became the first Egyptian leader in a decade to publicly meet an Israeli prime minister.

He and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met in Egypt’s Red Sea resort city of Sharm El Sheikh to discuss ways to revive the stalled peace process between Israel and the Palestinians.

Also last month, Israeli Transport Minister Merav Michaeli announced her government was lifting a daily cap of 1,200 Israelis allowed to pass through its Taba border crossing to Egypt's Sinai Peninsula.

Sinai's popular Red Sea resorts attract thousands of Israelis each year and the policy change allows unlimited numbers to travel there.

Updated: October 04, 2021, 5:05 AM