image Photo: Reuters

Saudi Arabia allows Israeli overflights

Saudi Arabia has announced an historic decision to allow Israeli airlines to fly through its airspace, to facilitate direct flights to the United Arab Emirates.

The breakthrough decision comes after Emirati Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan personally appealed to his Saudi counterpart Mohammed Bin Salman, who subsequently informed U.S. Senior White House Adviser Jared Kushner during the latter’s visit to Riyadh.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced the Saudi decision to the Israeli public with great excitement, saying it resulted from years of his efforts “to open the skies between Israel and the East.” After reminding his audience of his “spectacular” achievement to secure direct Air India flights to Israel two-and-a-half years ago, Netanyahu said “this is amazing news for you, the citizens of Israel.” He said the unobstructed flights from Israel to the UAE will not only be cost-effective but also “lead to robust tourism and develop our economy.”

“It will do one other thing: It will open up the East,” vowed the Israeli leader, saying, “when you fly to Thailand or anywhere else in Asia – it will save time and money.”

After underscoring that “these are the benefits of a peace that is genuine,” Netanyahu offered thanks to U.S. Senior Presidential Advisor Jared Kushner and Saudi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed “for today’s important contribution,” adding, “there will be a great deal more good news to come.”

According to senior Israeli officials cited by State Radio, the Gulf Arab state of Bahrain is expected to announce its own decision to normalize relations with Israel in the near future. The sources noted that such a development is likely to come only after the official signing ceremony of the Israel-UAE Accord expected to be held in Washington within the next several weeks.