After Public Criticism, Netanyahu to Fly to Washington With Rest of Delegation for UAE Signing Ceremony

PM changed his mind so the media wouldn't 'divert attention' from the deal, statement says ■ Visit by UAE delegates to Israel under review, minister says, as country faces coronavirus lockdown

Noa Landau
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara boarding a plane at Ben-Gurion International Airport, 2018.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara boarding a plane at Ben-Gurion International Airport, 2018. Credit: Amos Ben Gershom / GPO
Noa Landau

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will fly to Washington to sign the UAE peace deal in the same plane as the rest of the Israeli delegation, the Prime Minister's Office announced Friday, following sharp public criticism of Netanyahu's plan to fly on a separate aircraft.

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Netanyahu and his wife Sara were expected to use a private plane, while the rest of the Israeli delegation would use a leased plane from company Israir, in order to reduce the risk of exposure to the coronavirus, Israel's Channel 13 reported on Thursday.

"In order to prevent the media from diverting public attention away from the historic peace agreement with the UAE and possibly other Arab countries, the prime minister will fly with the delegation in a more spacious plane, with strict separation arrangements to maintain his health," a statement by his office said on Friday.

Netanyahu and UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan will sign the normalization deal at a ceremony held by U.S. President Donald Trump at the White House on September 15.

Meanwhile, the first official visit to Israel by a United Arab Emirates delegation may be postponed or conducted under restrictions, an Israeli minister said on Friday. This is due to a likely coronavirus lockdown, an Israeli cabinet minister said on Friday.

Provisionally planned for September 22, the visit was arranged in reciprocation of last week's groundbreaking Abu Dhabi visit by top Israeli and U.S. envoys. Israeli officials have confirmed such a plan. The UAE has not.

The UAE, Israeli and U.S. flags are picture attached to an air-plane of Israel's El Al, upon it's arrival at the Abu Dhabi airport, August 31, 2020.Credit: AFP

Struggling against a surge of coronavirus infections, Prime Minister Benjamin Netayahu's pandemic taskforce on Thursday approved a rolling national lockdown. The lockdown is expected to go into effect next week, following a cabinet vote on Sunday, and span major Jewish holidays that run from September 18 to October 10.

"To all appearances, this (UAE delegation visit) will either be postponed or a special modality will be required," Israeli Science Minister Izhar Shay, one of whose top aides took part in the August 31 Abu Dhabi trip, told Tel Aviv radio station 102 FM.

"I reckon that they will also appreciate the fact we are protecting the health of the citizenry, and, if we are forced to postpone the delegation, will accept this with understanding."

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