Israeli Minister negotiating Saudi air link

Carrying on after US President Donald Trump’s first direct flight between Israel and Saudi Arabia since the birth of the Jewish State, now Minister Ayoob Kara seeking Israeli aircraft use of the Kingdom’s airspace.

By i24NEWS


An Israeli cabinet minister wants Saudi Arabia to permit Israeli pilgrims to board direct flights from Tel Aviv to Mecca, building on the success of US President Donald Trump in making the first direct flight between the two countries in recent memory.

Currently, Muslim citizens of Israel must schlep by bus, via Jordan, through the Arabian desert in order to make the Hajj pilgrimage to Islam’s holiest site.

Israel’s Communications Minister Ayoob Kara – Photo: i24NEWS

In an interview with Bloomberg, Israel’s Communications Minister Ayoob Kara said he has spoken to officials in Saudi Arabia, Jordan and “other countries” about thrashing out a new plan to make the pilgrimage less arduous.

They are“ready to do it,” Kara told the news outlet, “but it’s very sensitive and it’s still a matter of negotiation.”

Even if a direct flight was rebuffed by the Saudis, who like almost all Arab countries do not have formal relations with Israel, a chartered flight with an intermediate stop in Jordan could be a suitable alternative, Kara intimated.

Jordan’s flag carrier Royal Jordanian told Bloomberg that it already ferries Israelis to Saudi Arabia through connections in Amman, however because Saudi Arabia denies entry to Israeli passport holders, such passengers must arrange temporary travel documents for the second leg of the journey.

Kara also hopes that this system can be improved to make the pilgrimage easier.

Officials in Saudi Arabia or Jordan did not comment on Kara’s claims.

“There’s a long history of Hajj travel being used as a confidence-building gesture, partly because it has a purity of religious purpose, and yet politics are involved because borders are not open in the Middle East,” said Scott Lasensky, a visiting fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv told Bloomberg.

In recent years Israeli officials have claimed that powerful Sunni states in the region are clamoring to establish highly discreet ties with Israel in order to take advantage of its military technology and to share intelligence in a joint effort against the common enemy of Iran.

During his visit to Israel in May, the US President flew on Air Force One direct from Riyadh to Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport, understood to be the first such publically known flight.

However, the other aircraft in the presidential entourage had to make a stop in Cyprus.


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