Saudi Arabia has opened its airspace to Air India flights to and from the Israeli-occupied territories, adding concrete evidence to the long-running reports of warming Riyadh-Tel Aviv relations.
On Thursday night, an Air India passenger jet became the first commercial flight to Israel to transit Saudi airspace.
“We will be flying non-stop from New Delhi to Tel Aviv from March 22 over Saudi airspace,” Air India spokesman Praveen Bhatnagar told the agency.
There will be three flights weekly in each direction, ending a decades-long Saudi ban on the use of its airspace for commercial flights to Israel.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Saudi Arabia has granted permission to Air India to fly over the kingdom’s airspace on routes to and from Tel Aviv.
Israeli Transport Minister Yisrael Katz, who was on the tarmac when the flight landed at the Ben Gurion airport, said “it is the first time that there is an official connection” between Riyadh and Tel Aviv.
“This is a historic moment,” he added.
The Times of Israel described the flight as “a sign of a behind-the-scenes improvement in ties” between Israel and Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia and Israel have no official diplomatic relations, but their relations have been rapidly growing over the past months, according to reports.
The regime in Riyadh has even drawn up a roadmap to normalize ties with the regime and go public about their long secret cooperation.
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir says Riyadh has a “roadmap” to establish full diplomatic ties with Israel, amid reports of behind-the-scenes cooperation between the two sides.
The development came weeks after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described the regime’s relations with the Arab world as at their “best ever.”
Led by Saudi Arabia, many of the Arab states have been increasingly reversing their traditional policy of representing themselves as Israel’s enemies and upholders of the Palestinian cause of ending Israeli occupation.