Riyadh Opens Skies to Israel with Gesture for ‘All’
Saudi Arabia announced on Wednesday that it was opening its airspace to “all countries” whose airlines fly to and from the United Arab Emirates. The move comes days after the kingdom allowed a 737 belonging to Israel’s El Al Airlines to traverse its skies on the way from Tel Aviv to Abu Dhabi. On board were Israeli government officials headed for consultations with their Emirati counterparts on ways to begin the normalization of ties announced at the White House earlier this month. Rather than singling out Israel, the Saudis apparently opted for a more general statement. It signals what appears to be a tacit nod to the decision by the UAE to normalize ties with the Jewish state while indicating Riyadh’s preference for peace between Israel and the Palestinians before it follows Abu Dhabi’s lead. Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu praised the move as a “huge breakthrough.” Although the new policy mentions only those flights heading to or from the UAE, Israeli officials see this as an opening to shorter air routes from Tel Aviv to the Far East, which until now took most commercial aircraft either around Saudi Arabia or north of Syria, Iraq and Iran.