JERUSALEM, Israel – Although COVID-19 has wreaked worldwide havoc, positive things are emerging from the pandemic. For example, nations without diplomatic ties working together to help others.
For the first time, a commercial aircraft from the United Arab Emirates flew directly to Israel, landing at Ben Gurion airport.
The unmarked Etihad Airlines flight brought at least 14 tons of medical supplies for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. The equipment included personal protective gear and 10 ventilators.
“There have been some remarkable outcomes in terms of advancing Gulf-Israel relations during this pandemic, the COVID-19 pandemic. Of the six Gulf States, four of them right now are in contact with Israel,” Rabbi Marc Schneier, President of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding told CBN News.
Schneier has been building relations with Gulf State leaders for more than 12 years. He sees a growing partnership developing.
“My conversations with different Gulf leaders, they’ve said to me, ‘Rabbi, with our wealth and resources and Israel’s brain, trust, and technology, we could be the region to find the vaccine, to find the cure,'” he said.
No Gulf State has formal ties with Israel although Schneier says Qatar began the process two years ago. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also made a rare visit to Oman in 2018 where he met with the sultan.
Around the same time, Miri Regev, Israel’s sports and culture minister at the time, visited the UAE for a judo tournament where they played Israel’s national anthem, Hatikvah.
Schneier says common challenges are bringing Israel and certain Gulf States together.
“The Iranian threat continues but now we have the economic threat. This virus has had a very negative impact not only on the Israeli economy but on the Gulf economy. and then there’s always the physical threat in terms of keeping your citizens safe,” explained Schneier.
He said that doesn’t mean they’re abandoning the Palestinians but now they realize they have a role to play by offering economic incentives to the Palestinians.
“We’re on that journey to the promised land of Israel-Gulf relations. I’m confident that it will not take 40 years,” Schneier continued. “[The] UAE landing this plane at Ben Gurion, bringing humanitarian aid to the Palestinian people in Gaza is one more benchmark along that journey.”
Palestinians later rejected the aid saying they didn’t want to play a part in normalization between Israel and the Gulf States.