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Saudi decision to open air-space to Israel lauded as first step to normalisation  

Saudi Arabia’s decision to open its air space to Israeli airlines has been lauded as a first step to normalisation with the Apartheid State

July 15, 2022 at 2:00 pm

Saudi Arabia’s decision to open its air space to Israeli airlines has been lauded as a first step to normalisation with the Apartheid State. Riyadh announced yesterday that it would open its airspace to all carriers, paving the way for more overflights to and from Israel.

The Saudi General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) said the country’s airspace was now open to all carriers that meet its requirements for overflights, in line with international conventions that say there should be no discrimination between civil aircraft.

The rule change will mean that flights to Asia from Tel Aviv will no longer have to circumvent the Arabian Peninsula, as a consequence of the kingdom’s non-recognition of Israel. The change will mean a reduction of between two to three hours travel time.

The decision will “complement the efforts aimed at consolidating the kingdom’s position as a global hub connecting three continents and to enhance international air connectivity,” GACA added in a statement.

Though Riyadh only a few weeks ago said that it is not ready to allow direct flight from Israel, nonetheless Reuters reported US officials saying that the kingdom will soon grant direct charter flights from the occupation state for Muslims participating in the annual Hajj pilgrimage in Makkah.

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Former Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu congratulated Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman on the decision on Twitter, and seemingly took credit for what he said is “laying the foundations for normalization.”

US President Joe Biden, who according to Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is helping Israel integrate in the Middle East, welcomed the decision and said it was an important step towards building a more stable Middle East region.

The Saudi concessions coincides with Riyadh’s wish to acquire the two strategic Islands, Sanafir and Tiran from Egypt. The transfer requires the approval of Israel because of a treaty between Cairo and Tel Aviv. Earlier this month Israel said it will agree to transferring the islands to Saudi in what appears to be a deal timed to present Biden’s visit to the region a success.

US presidents have a history of mediating deals between Israel and the Arab countries to cement their legacy as “peace-makers”. Almost always these deals are done to secure Israel’s interest at the expense of Palestinians.