- Steve Jaffe
Israeli delegation lands in Bahrain
Updated: Oct 29, 2020
An El Al 737-900ER transported a team of high-level U.S. and Israeli officials to Manama on October 18 for the signing of significant bilateral agreements between Bahrain and Israel. The flight represented the first El Al to land in Bahrain, and followed a direct routing over Saudi Arabia in a sign of an increasingly integrated Middle East aeropolitical environment.
Onboard LY 973 (assigned in recognition of Bahrain’s international calling code) were members of the US and Israeli delegations, including Israel’s National Security Advisor Meir Ben-Shabbat and U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. At the airport arrival ceremony, as reported by the Times of Israel, Ben-Shabbat, speaking in Arabic, said that Israel “extends its hands for genuine peace with the Bahraini people. Together we will change the reality in the region for the benefit of our nations. God willing, we will host you in Israel soon.”
Switching to Hebrew, Ben-Shabbat noted that the Knesset approved the Israel-UAE peace treaty three days earlier. He said the current delegation, like a previous one to the United Arab Emirates, flew nonstop from Tel Aviv, and added that he hoped the route would become a regular route in the near future. He thanked Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa for making peace. (Times of Israel)
The flight (operated by 4X EHD) headed east upon departure from Ben Gurion Airport and continued over Jordan and Saudi Arabia on a nearly direct tract, arriving in Manama after 2:15 hours flying time.
While highly significant and well publicized as LY 973 was, it was not the first Israeli commercial airliner to fly to Bahrain. That honor is held by Israir, which flew an A320 to Manama on September 23, carrying a team of Israeli negotiators to work out the initial framework of the normalization agreement to be signed between the two countries.