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Israel Planning UAE Flights Over Saudi – Netanyahu

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a speech at the state memorial ceremony for the fallen soldiers of the 1973 Yom Kippur War, at the Hall of Remembrance on Mt. Herzl in Jerusalem on October 10, 2019. GALI TIBBON / AFP

 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday that Israel is working on opening a corridor over Saudi Arabia for flights to the UAE, following last week’s historic deal to normalise ties.

“We are working with maximum energy, and we have already begun to work on opening an air route over Saudi Arabia, which will simply shorten flights between Israel and the UAE,” he said during a visit to Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv.

“I estimate that we will reach an agreement that will genuinely allow direct flights between Tel Aviv and Dubai,” he said. “It is a major revolution.”

In March 2018, Air India launched the first scheduled service to Israel allowed to cross Saudi airspace.

It was seen at the time as a sign of a behind-the-scenes improvement in ties between the Arab kingdom and the Jewish state.

During a May 2017 Middle East tour, US President Donald Trump flew from Riyadh to Tel Aviv on Air Force One, in a first known direct flights from Saudi Arabia to Israel.

A surprise announcement from Trump last Thursday revealed that the United Arab Emirates and Israel have decided to normalise relations.

It is only the third such accord Israel has struck with an Arab country, and raises the prospect of similar deals with other pro-Western Gulf states.

Regional heavyweight Saudi Arabia has been conspicuously silent on the deal, with no official reaction emerging from Riyadh.

Netanyahu said the deal would not only change Israel’s aviation options, but also its maritime trade.

“Dubai has the largest free trade zones in the world,” he said.

“Now these goods will — under the peace agreement –- reach the State of Israel and lower the prices of products.”

In a letter to UAE leader Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin welcomed the deal.

“In these fateful days, leadership is measured by its courage and ability to be groundbreaking and far-sighted,” he wrote in Arabic.

“I make no secret of my hope that this move will also serve as a beacon, illuminating the road ahead for others,” he wrote, extending an invitation to Sheikh Mohamed to visit Israel.

AFP

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