Saudi Arabia and Israel are continuing to cultivate “advanced contact” to facilitate direct flights to the Kingdom for Palestinians and Israeli Muslims intending to travel for the annual Hajj pilgrimage.
According to the Israeli Channel 12, the two countries are holding discussions regarding the launch of direct flights between Tel Aviv and Saudi airports in order to enable Israel’s Muslim citizens to perform the pilgrimage.
Citing two Israeli officials, the Channel reported that Saudi Arabia was approaching the discussions with positivity, with the contacts reportedly taking place with “Saudi support and encouragement”.
As part of the initiative, Israel is reported to have already approached airlines in Jordan and Bahrain – both of which Tel Aviv has open ties with – with the proposal to operate direct flights between Ben Gurion Airport and Saudi Arabia, particularly its port city of Jeddah.
It is claimed that Riyadh is putting forward the condition that Palestinians in the Occupied West Bank are also allowed to fly directly from Tel Aviv to Jeddah, as their lack of Israeli citizenship currently restricts them from moving freely within Israel and forces them to travel to Makkah only by transiting third-party countries.
The acceptance of that alleged condition will, however, depend on the approval of Israel’s internal security service, the Shin Bet.
If Tel Aviv and Riyadh do strike a deal on the issue, it is expected that 4,500 Palestinians who are citizens of Israel would potentially be able to travel directly to Saudi Arabia next month in time for the Hajj pilgrimage.