The Palestinian Authority (PA) has rejected coronavirus aid sent via an Emirati flight to Israel on Tuesday, saying that aid must be sent in coordination with the Palestinian leadership and not with Israel.
“There has been no coordination with the PA, so we cannot receive such aid,” PA Minister of Health Mai Alkaila told a news conference on Thursday. “We are a sovereign authority. Coordination must be directly with us.”
The United Arab Emirates flew its first publicly announced flight to Israel late on Tuesday, an Etihad cargo plane from Abu Dhabi to Tel Aviv loaded with humanitarian aid for Palestinians to help curb the spread of coronavirus.
Several Israeli media outlets reported that the flight took place in coordination with Israel’s foreign ministry and the UN’s World Food Programme.
Israel and the UAE do not have formal diplomatic relations, despite their de facto alliance against Iran.
Palestinians and their supporters oppose “normalisation” efforts with Israel, arguing that diplomatic pressure is an essential tool to get Israel to put an end to its occupation of Palestinian territories and violation of human rights.
Last year, Israel’s then foreign minister Israel Katz visited Abu Dhabi, where he discussed the “Iranian threat” with Emirati officials, his office said at the time. In 2018, Miri Regev, who was serving as Israel’s sports minister, also flew to the Emirati capital, notably going on a public tour of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.
Israel was due to participate in the World Expo 2020 in Dubai, which was postponed because of the coronavirus outbreak.
The flight from Abu Dhabi to Tel Aviv comes as Israel plans to annex large parts of the occupied Palestinian territories in the West Bank.
The UAE has condemned the possible move as “illegal”, but cooperation appears to be growing between the two countries. Israeli media reported in April that the Emirati government offered to evacuate Israeli citizens stuck in Morocco because of the pandemic.
The spread of the coronavirus has raised fears that Palestinians may not have the resources to cope with a major outbreak in the occupied West Bank and besieged Gaza Strip, which have had close to 400 confirmed cases and two related deaths.