In the latest development suggesting a thaw in relations between the Jewish state and the leader of the Sunni Muslim world, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu confirmed that Saudi Arabia granted permission to Air India to use its airspace for a flight between New Delhi and Tel Aviv scheduled to commence in the coming weeks. The route over Saudi Arabia will greatly reduce operating costs (savings that should, in turn, be transferred to the customer), as the trip between Israel and India will be cut down from eight hours to about five and a half. The Saudis did not, however, grant overfly permission to El Al, Israel’s national carrier, which operates four weekly flights to Mumbai. Netanyahu revealed that he is in talks with El Al to ensure the company does not get hurt economically, although no further details were provided. While Israel and Saudi Arabia do not have formal diplomatic relations, over the past few years there has been an apparent rapprochement between the two countries based primarily on the shared desire to curb Shiite Iran’s regional expansionism and potential nuclearization.
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