by WorldTribune Staff, March 6, 2018
Saudi Arabia has committed to allow Air India the use of Saudi airspace for its new routes to and from Tel Aviv, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyhau said on March 5.
Netanyahu made the announcement in Washington after his meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump.
There was no immediate confirmation from either Saudi officials or Air India.
The use of Saudi airspace would allow Air India flights to and from Tel Aviv to cut more than two hours off their travel time. Currently, the flights fly south toward Ethiopia and then east to India to avoid Saudi airspace.
El Al Israel Airlines, which flies four weekly flights to Mumbai, has also expressed an interest in flying over Saudi airspace in order to reduce flight time, Arutz Sheva reported.
After reports of the new arrangement first surfaced in January, analysts said lifting the 70-year-old airspace ban would further strengthen ties between Israel and Saudi Arabia, U.S. allies with a shared concern over Iranian influence in the Middle East.
“One report claimed the Saudi government is weighing the possible normalization of relations with Israel ahead of a planned Middle East peace program by the Trump administration which aims to not only secure a final status agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, but lead to recognition of the Jewish state by the larger Arab world,” the Arutz Sheva report said.
The British Daily Mail newspaper reported in November 2017 that once Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman becomes king, he would enlist the help of the Israeli military to defeat Hizbullah, Iran’s terror proxy in Lebanon.