JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday that Israel was preparing to operate direct flights to the Emirates through Saudi airspace as part of the signing of an agreement to normalize relations between the two countries.
On Thursday, Israel and the UAE announced their intention to normalize diplomatic relations under a US-sponsored deal, the implementation of which could reshape Middle East politics from the Palestinian issue to confronting Iran. The UAE would thus become the third Arab country to establish relations with Israel.
He briefed Netanyahu at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv about plans to expand aviation activity, which was curtailed by the outbreak of the Coronavirus, but he did not specify a time frame for opening an air route with the Gulf state.
“We are currently working to allow direct flights from Tel Aviv to Dubai and Abu Dhabi through Saudi airspace,” Netanyahu told reporters, “estimating the flight time” at about three hours, the same as the flight to Rome. ”
Saudi Arabia does not recognize the State of Israel, and its airspace is closed to Israeli aircraft. However, in a move that was seen in Israel as a sign of improved relations with Riyadh, Air India was allowed in 2018 to start flights over Saudi Arabia en route from New Delhi to Tel Aviv.
“We expect a tremendous volume of investment and tourism” with the UAE, Netanyahu said at Ben Gurion Airport.
An Israeli delegation is scheduled to visit the UAE within weeks to work on normalizing relations, but restrictions imposed to combat the Covid-19 pandemic may quickly disrupt the opening of commercial aviation routes.
On Sunday, the UAE switched on telephone lines with Israel, which had been launched by a contact between the foreign ministers of the two countries.
Prepared by Lubna Sabry for the Arabic newsletter, edited by Suha Gadu