Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh announced Thursday that the Palestinian Authority will not accept the medical aid sent by the United Arab Emirates on a direct flight to Israel, citing fears over normalization with the Arab world.
However, following the PA's refusal to receive the aid, it was agreed that it will go to the Gaza Strip instead, which now faces fears of a renewed coronavirus outbreak after 29 new cases were diagnosed on Thursday in Palestinians returning to the Strip through the Erez and Rafah crossings.
The equipment, intended to help Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip deal with the coronavirus pandemic, landed at Ben-Gurion International Airport on Tuesday on a direct flight from Abu Dhabi.
Shtayyeh told reporters that the plane's landing in Israel was not coordinated with any Palestinian party, including the authority's UAE ambassador.
The PA's Health Minister Mai al-Kaila also claimed that the PA knew nothing about the plane prior to its landing. "We cannot get any assistance without coordination with the Palestinian Authority, as sovereign and in charge of its territory."
The relationship between the PA and the Emirates has been tense in recent years because the UAE is protecting former Fatah senior and President Mahmoud Abbas' rival Mohammed Dahlan.
In addition, the Authority fears that receiving the equipment through Ben-Gurion will legitimize direct flights from Gulf States to Israel, thereby legalizing the normalization between the countries under the auspices of providing humanitarian assistance to the Authority.
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Israel and the UAE 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.
The cargo plane carrying the aid, obtained via the World Food Program, made the first known arrival in Israel of a direct Etihad Airways from Abu Dhabi. Its arrival was coordinated with Israel’s Foreign Ministry.