On his inaugural trip into space in 2019, the first United Arab Emirates’ astronaut, Hazzaa Al-Mansoori, took an Israeli flag with him, the director-general of Israel’s Foreign Ministry revealed.
Al-Mansoori spent eight days aboard the International Space Station a year before UAE normalised its relations with Israel. He handed over the flag as a gift to Israel’s exhibition team at the Expo 2020 Dubai, according to Ynet, an Israeli outlet.
In a tweet the director-general, Alon Ushpiz, said: “This morning we hosted a very dear & special guest at the Israeli pavilion at @ExpoDubai2021, the first Emirati astronaut. @astro_hazzaa gifted us with an Israeli flag he took with him on his first mission to the International Space Station. Thank you (& may the force be with you)”
Josh Bendit, exhibition chief at the pavilion, said: “The flag was delivered to us with dedication. Al-Mansoori came wearing his astronaut uniform and seemed excited. His visit shows us how important he finds the UAE-Israeli relations… To come dressed in his spacesuit and visit our pavilion, shows a genuine caring for Israelis.”
And Al-Mansoori, while visiting the pavilion in his spacesuit, said: “I am happy to be here and present this Israeli flag to the people here and the Israeli public. I took this flag with me two years ago on my first mission as an Emirati astronaut and this is my gift to all Israelis.”
Mansouri also intends to travel to Israel as early as January, if the coronavirus epidemic allows.
The UAE is one of the four Arab countries that formally normalised relations with Israel by signing a U.S.-brokered agreement called the “Abraham Accords.” The other countries were Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco. The accords were strongly condemned by Palestinians who called it a betrayal.