Saudi Arabia could give Israel access to airspace for commercial flights: reports

Saudi Arabia could give Israel access to airspace for commercial flights: reports
2 min read
05 July, 2022
The suspected discussions come as Israel and Saudi Arabia ready themselves for visits by US President Joe Biden next month
Saudi Arabia does not allow use of its airspace for flights to and from Israel, with a few exceptions [Jack Guez/AFP via Getty Images]

Israel's hopes of a deal with Riyadh over use of Saudi Arabia's airspace for commercial flights are mounting, according to media reports, ahead of US President Joe Biden's visit to the Middle East next week.

Israel is currently trying to establish direct flights to Japan and seeks use of Saudi airspace to make this happen, Israeli news outlet Ynet reported over the weekend. 

The Israeli ambassador to Japan is in talks with flag carrier El Al and the Israeli tourism minister to get the flights operating, according to Ynet.

US news outlet Bloomberg reported last month that a deal between Riyadh and Tel Aviv over airspace use was being discussed.

Israeli airlines already fly over Saudi Arabia for journeys to Bahrain and the UAE - two Gulf countries which Israel normalised relations with in 2020.

However, Saudi Arabia restricts all other flights to and from Israel, with a few exceptions.

Israel's former foreign minister Yair Lapid - who became the country's prime minister on 1 July - told the press last month that talks on a deal for the use of Saudi airspace was "not without some basis", Bloomberg reported.

The suspected talks come as Biden's trip, which will include visits to Israel and Saudi Arabia, draws closer.

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Israeli officials have said they hope the US president's trip could bring about an improvement in Israel-Saudi relations. Saudi Arabia has so far resisted normalising ties with Israel, although informal relations exist.

The US is currently believed to be brokering a deal between the two countries that could be a precursor to the two countries fully normalising relations.

On Monday night, an Israeli television journalist for Channel 13 spoke of his visit to the Gulf kingdom - and the mixed reception he received.

Military correspondent Alon Ben-David and his team travelled on non-Israeli passports, as Saudi Arabia does not yet accept Israeli visitors - but he said he soon felt comfortable enough to tell Saudis that he was an Israeli.

Ben-David said he was welcomed by some Saudis, while others gave him the cold shoulder.

American Jewish analyst Avi Jorisch wrote in the Jerusalem Post last week that he was "part of a delegation of 50 Jewish business leaders closely affiliated with Israel" who visited Saudi Arabia last month.

"It felt like old friends and family being reunited," Jorisch said of the visit.

The delegation visited the Prophet's Mosque in the holy city of Medina, which for centuries has only been open to Muslims.