A close-up photo taken on February 20, 2022 shows an Etihad Airways Boeing 787 alongside an Israeli airliner on the tarmac of Israel's Ben Gurion International airport. ... [+] El Al passenger plane. AFP via "Today, Etihad Airways and EL AL Israel Airways announced a new mutual loyalty agreement." I read the press release and bought it twice. It took a while to grasp that, as anyone with a past week's memory would do. El Al started out as Israel's national airline in 1948, but has since been privatized. Etihad is the national carrier of the United Arab Emirates , which has long been part of the Arab boycott of Israel. As a matter of fact, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the first president of the UAE, which gained independence in 1971, referred to Israel as the "enemy". But now, the two airlines representing their countries are "loyal" to each other, at least in the frequent flyer sense of the word. And their trade relations reflect the growing normalization of the relationship between the two former adversaries. Their new agreement expands the existing codeshare relationship between Etihad and Al Al. Members of loyalty programs on these airlines can now earn and redeem miles on flights on both carriers' networks. The Etihad Guest loyalty program has around eight million members, while EL AL's Matmid program is the largest loyalty program in Israel with over 2.6 million members. Etihad Guest members can redeem miles for travel on EL AL, starting at 9,000 miles in Economy Class and 10,000 miles in Business Class. EL AL Matmid members can redeem their points on the Etihad network from Tel Aviv to Abu Dhabi as 800 points in Economics and 1500 points in Business. Still, who would have imagined that Israelis could experience luxury in a $20,000-ticketed Residence on an Etihad A380, or that Arabs from the Gulf could travel in safety-obsessed El Al? Pursuing points and miles apparently flies old enemies side by side. LOCATION UNSPECIFIED - DATE UNSPECIFIED: This handout photo provided by Etihad Airways shows an overview of the Residence bedroom on a ... [+] Etihad Airways Airbus A380. On May 4, 2014, Etihad Airways, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates, launched its first apartment, suites, business studio and affordable smart chair, including The Residence by Etihad, a three-room cabin with a personal butler. 2014 Etihad Airways Common interests in trade and concerns about Iranian expansionism have brought these strange two countries together. Meanwhile, the 2020 Abraham Accords, initiated by President Trump, expanded the agreement to include additional countries. The partnership opens up a large part of the world to travelers from two countries that, according to statistics, are strikingly similar. Israel and the United Arab Emirates are similar in population, with 9 to 10 million people each. According to economic development credit insurance company Atradius, "Both have a gross domestic product of about $400 billion and their relatively small populations have a high standard of living as measured by per capita income." The deal has already resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars in trade. More than 250,000 Israelis have visited the Emirates so far. Although the pandemic and its quarantines have cut passenger flow by a drop, Israeli President Herzog said, "We are expecting many UAE residents traveling to Israel after COVID." “Etihad is proud to further deepen the partnership with EL AL,” said Arik De, Head of Revenue at Etihad Airways. "After the signing of the historic Abraham Agreements, Etihad Airways has become the first Gulf Cooperation Council airline to fly to Israel, and this partnership further reinforces Etihad's pioneering spirit." Beneath the codeshare piece of the puzzle, EL AL places the code 'LY' at seven destinations on the Etihad network, including Tel Aviv, Bahrain, Seoul, Melbourne, Manila, Seychelles and Sydney. Etihad Guest members, on the other hand, can now fly with EL Al. Delivered from Tel Aviv, the network includes more than 45 destinations in the USA, Europe, Africa and the Far East. Etihad currently operates scheduled daily flights between Abu Dhabi and Tel Aviv throughout the year. Travelers from Tel Aviv can connect with Etihad Airways to various destinations in Asia, Australia and the Indian Subcontinent. "This is the next phase following the codeshare agreement between EL AL and Etihad that allows EL AL passengers to fly with Etihad to Abu Dhabi and various destinations on their network," said Shlomi Zafrany, Vice President, Commercial and Industrial Affairs, EL AL Israel Airlines. "This cooperation is the result of the positive outcome of the Abraham Agreements signed in September 2020 and we look forward to further strengthening it." Maybe the two airlines are an odd couple, but they are working together to expand their business and travel in the Middle East. Gotopnews.com