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Benjamin Netanyahu. Photo: Debbie Hill/Getty Images

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his wife Sara and their two children will fly on a private plane to the signing ceremony of the Israel-UAE normalization deal next week in Washington, D.C. — separate from the rest of the Israeli delegation.

Why it matters: The unprecedented move comes amid a growing health and economic crisis in Israel. Later on Thursday, the Israeli Cabinet voted in favor of a renewed general lockdown across the country due to the dramatic rise in new COVID-19 cases. This will be the first time Netanyahu leaves Israel since the coronavirus outbreak.

Usually the prime minister travels on official trips abroad in a chartered El Al plane. The Prime Minister's Office already booked an Israir plane for the delegation, but simultaneously decided to book a separate flight for the Netanyahu family. The story was first published on Channel 13 news.

What they're saying: Netanyahu's spokesperson Shir Cohen said in a statement that the reason for chartering a jet for the family was a directive from the security department in the Prime Minster's Office "out of concern that the prime minister might be infected in a flight with more than 70 passengers."

  • She added that the cost of flying in two separate planes will be half the price tag of Netanyahu's most recent trip to the U.S. last January.
  • The family's spokesperson Ofer Golan confirmed that Netanyahu's children Yair and Avner will join him on the private jet, but said both children will pay for their flights themselves according to a rate that will be decided by the chief financial officer for the Prime Minister's Office.

Go deeper

Dec 1, 2020 - World

Israel headed for early elections as Gantz-Netanyahu coalition falls apart

Gantz (L) with Netanyahu. Photo: Gali Tibbon/Pool/AFP via Getty

Israel's governing coalition is falling apart, setting the stage for the fourth election in two years.

Driving the news: Defense Minister Benny Gantz announced tonight that his Blue and White party would vote in favor of dissolving parliament on Wednesday because Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — Gantz's political rival turned coalition partner — was refusing to pass a budget and reneging on their power-sharing deal.

Dec 2, 2020 - World

Israel fears tourists in UAE could become Iranian targets

Arriving in Dubai. Photo: Karim Sahib/AFP via Getty Images

Israeli officials are concerned that Israelis visiting Dubai could become the targets of Iranian retaliation over the assassination of nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh.

Why it matters: The UAE is one of the only destinations open to Israeli travelers at the moment due to COVID-19 restrictions. Israeli officials expect thousands of Israelis to visit Dubai during the Hanukkah holiday, less than two weeks from now.

Dec 2, 2020 - World

Israel's embassy in Bahrain comes out into the open

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Israel plans to open an official embassy in Bahrain by the end of December, formalizing 25 years of secret diplomatic contacts, Israeli officials tell me.

Why it matters: Israel already had a diplomatic mission in Manama for the last 11 years, run out of a front company that was listed as a commercial consulting firm. Now, there will be an Israeli flag and a sign on the door.