Israel is trying to open a direct flight from Tel Aviv to Saudi Arabia for the thousands of Israeli Muslim citizens making the religious pilgrimage to Mecca every year.
News of the sensitive diplomatic discussions were revealed by Israel’s Communications Minister Ayoub Kara in an interview with Bloomberg late last week, in which he said he was working hard to open a route.
Currently the trip involves a thousand-mile road trip through the deserts of Jordan and Saudi Arabia, because – like many Arab countries – Saudi Arabia has no formal diplomatic relations with Israel.
However, Kara said the geopolitical landscape, where both countries share a common enemy, Iran, meant that “now is a good time” to discuss an air passage, unthinkable only a few years ago. “Reality has changed,” he said. “This is a good time to make the request, and I’m working hard on it.”
Last month The Times reported that Israel and Saudi Arabia were preparing to agree a range of economic measures that would allow Israeli firms to operate in the Gulf and that would allow El Al to fly over Saudi airspace.