Israel Air Force commander meets air chiefs from Jordan, UAE in Dubai

IAF chief Norkin met with Jordanian Gen. Mohammad Fathi Hiyasat, the first showing a top Israeli officer meeting Jordanian general, in a historic photo.

 Israel Air Force Commander Maj.-Gen. Amikam Norkin meeting with Commander of the Kingdom’s Air Force Maj.-Gen. Ibrahim Nasser Mohammed al-Alawi, Commander of the German Airforce  Lieutenant General Ingo Gerhartz, November 14, 2021.  (photo credit: LUFTWAFFE/KEVIN SCHRIEF)
Israel Air Force Commander Maj.-Gen. Amikam Norkin meeting with Commander of the Kingdom’s Air Force Maj.-Gen. Ibrahim Nasser Mohammed al-Alawi, Commander of the German Airforce Lieutenant General Ingo Gerhartz, November 14, 2021.
(photo credit: LUFTWAFFE/KEVIN SCHRIEF)

Israel Air Force Commander Maj.-Gen. Amikam Norkin traveled to the United Arab Emirates on Sunday to participate in the Dubai International Air Chiefs’ Conference as part of the Dubai Airshow.

It is the first time that Israel is participating in the show, which kicked off on Sunday, following the signing of the Abraham Accords in August 2020 that normalized relations between the UAE and Israel.

During his visit, Norkin, who unlike the other officers was not in uniform, met with the Commander of UAE’s Air Force Maj.-Gen. Ibrahim Nasser Mohammed al-Alawi, senior Jordanian Air Force officer Gen. Mohammad Fathi Hiyasat, German Air Force chief Lt.-Gen. Ingo Gerhartz and other regional military officers.

It was Norkin’s first visit to the UAE and “is part of the deepening of the ties and cooperation between the State of Israel and the United Arab Emirates” the IDF said in a statement. The visit “indicated the continued development and strengthening of the relationship between the IDF and foreign militaries, at the national and strategic level, as well as an example of the growing cooperation in the Middle East.”

Norkin previously met with Alawi in October, after he landed in Israel for the first time during the large-scale international Blue Flag aerial exercise to take part in a conference for countries flying the F-35.

He received an honor guard led by Norkin at Palmahim Air Force Base south of Tel Aviv and discussed cooperation and strengthening the connection between the two Middle Eastern air forces.

 People walk past the Israeli display during the Dubai Air Show in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, November 14, 2021. (credit:  REUTERS/STAFF) People walk past the Israeli display during the Dubai Air Show in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, November 14, 2021. (credit: REUTERS/STAFF)

“I thank you, commander of the Emirati Air Force, for your willingness to come to Israel,” Norkin told him at the time. “This is a historic and important day for cooperation between the air forces.”

The meeting between Norkin and Hiyasat also comes after Jordan was photographed taking part in Israel’s two-week international Blue Flag drill in October.

In one photo, a Jordanian F-16 fighter jet can be seen taxiing along a runway at Uvda base, just north of Eilat, while a French Dassault Rafale jet flies above it. In the second, a Jordanian F-16 could be seen taking off.

Though Israel and Jordan signed a peace treaty in 1994, Amman tends to keep military ties with Israel quiet due to public hostility toward the Jewish state in Jordan. Until the photos were leaked, Jordan’s military cooperation with Israel and its participation in the exercise had officially been kept a secret.

Both Israel and the UAE have worked together covertly for years against Iran’s hegemony and, according to foreign reports, have improved their intelligence-sharing and military relations behind closed doors in order to be prepared for Iranian threats.

AMERICA’S TOP air force general in the Middle East Lt.-Gen. Gregory Guillot said at the conference that the US could hold a joint air drill with Israel, the UAE and Bahrain.

“The collaborative defense of multiple countries... in the region is going to be our key to detecting those [threats] and staying one step ahead of the threat as it evolves,” he was quoted by the Military.com news site after appearing at the Dubai International Air Chiefs’ Conference.

Guillot’s comments come as Israel, the UAE, Bahrain and the US are holding a joint maritime exercise in the Gulf of Aqaba and the northern Red Sea that a senior Israeli officer said was a clear message to Iran.

While the Israeli Air Force had previously taken part in international drills with the UAE, this one marks the first time that Israel is publicly training with the UAE and Bahrain. Also on Thursday, two IAF F-15s escorted two USAF B-1B strategic heavy bombers as well as a KC-10 refueler on their way to the Gulf.

It was the second such flight in two weeks and was “a significant step in maintaining the security of the skies of the State of Israel and the Middle East,” the IDF said on Twitter.

The drill and other joint maneuvers with the US and regional countries come as a result of the transfer of responsibility for Israel from the US Europe Command (EUCOM) to the US Central Command (CENTCOM).

It is believed that the move will not only simplify cooperation with American troops in the region but will also create the potential for a regional coalition with Arab countries that have normalized ties with Israel against shared threats posed by Iran.

ISRAEL’S DEFENSE Ministry inaugurated the country’s first-ever pavilion at the Dubai Airshow, with eight Israeli defense companies presenting their products.

The five-day airshow is expected to have 370 new exhibitors and is set to welcome more than 85,000 visitors. There will also be civilian and military delegations from over 140 countries, including new additions from the Czech Republic, Belgium, Brazil and Slovakia in addition to Israel.

Israel’s national pavilion was inaugurated by the Head of Directorate for International Defense Cooperation (SIBAT) Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yair Kulas and other senior members of Israel’s defense establishment and managers of the companies participating in the exhibition.

The eight Israeli defense companies include Elbit Systems, IAI, Rafael, Tomer Astronautics, Nir Or and UVision.

“The partnership between Israel and the UAE, which has been expanding since the signing of the Abraham Accords, is a strategic asset,” said Defense Minister Benny Gantz. “The participation of the Defense Ministry in the exhibition reflects the deepening relations between our countries.”

Calling the pavilion a “new and historic component” in the strengthening of relations between Israel and the UAE, Kulas said that Jerusalem is “thrilled to have an opportunity to participate in this important exhibition and to showcase the advanced technological capabilities of Israel’s defense industries. Within the framework of the exhibition, we plan to hold numerous meetings to discuss new areas of collaboration.”