A direct flight to Israel from Abu Dhabi landed at Ben-Gurion International Airport with equipment to help Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip deal with the coronavirus pandemic.
Israel and the United Arab Emirates do not have formal diplomatic relations, but there are many clandestine contacts between the two countries, as well as the occasional public visit by Israeli officials. Israel has official representation at a United Nations organization in Abu Dhabi, and this year Israel was also invited to participate in Dubai’s Expo world fair.
Israel confirmed this month that it plans to provide the Palestinian Authority with 800 million shekels (about $228 million) of aid to handle the outbreak, despite a petition to the High Court of Justice against this.
The court said the aid deal was a government decision made following a request made to Israel by the Palestinian finance minister for additional funds in light of the outbreak and the severe economic pressure it has placed on the PA.
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The government therefore decided to sign off on a loan agreement with the PA, with this sum being, according to the finance minister, deducted from future payments.
The court also said the fund don’t violate the law that requires sums paid by the PA to people involved with terrorism and to their families to be deducted from the tax money passed on to it. The court reasoned that all refunds will be cut from returns that have already been deducted from the frozen sums.
Responding to a petition by the group Physicians for Human Rights this week that called for the government to assist the Gaza Strip as well during the pandemic, the High Court said that this was the responsibility of the PA, not Israel. However, the court’s response mentioned additional steps taken to improve coordination during the pandemic, including “ongoing dialogue with the Palestinian Health Ministry in Ramallah, meeting and consultations, and providing professional material translated into Arabic.”
The coronavirus aid deal stipulates that the money be transferred in four monthly installments, with the first payment coming at the end of May.
The cargo plane carrying the aid, obtained via the World Food Program, will make the first known arrival in Israel of a direct Etihad Airways from Abu Dhabi. Its arrival was coordinated with Israel’s Foreign Ministry.
The office of Nickolay Mladenov, the United Nations' envoy for the Mideast peace process, released a statement thanking the UAE for the delivery of fourteen tons of medical supplies, which it said included 10 badly needed ventilators.
"The UAE is an important partner, whose continued support for peace and for the Palestinian people at this critical time is highly valued," Mladenov said. "Global solidarity is in the interest of everyone. Today we are facing the most challenging crisis since the Second World War. We can get through it only by working together."