On Friday, Israeli officials hailed Saudi Arabia’s decision to open airspace to “all carriers” from and to Israel. The Saudi General Authority for Civil Aviation tweeted that the kingdom, without mentioning Israel specifically, has chosen to open its airspace “to all carriers that meet the authority’s conditions for overflying.”
The announcement was made by the general authority of civil aviation (GACA) as part of the kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s desire to fulfill its obligation under the 1944 Chicago Convention, which forbids discrimination between civil aircraft used in international air navigation and to support efforts to examine the position of the kingdom as a major hub connecting three nations.
The move by the Saudi government reflects the normalization of the long-standing disputed relationship between Israel and Saudi Arabia. The decision by the Saudis came amid American President Joe Biden’s tour of the Middle East. Biden even embarked on a flight from Israel to Saudi Arabia for his meeting with the Crown Prince. Saudi Arabia has restricted Israeli airlines from operating over its airspace, prolonging and increasing the cost of flights between Israel and Asia. Analysts say that Biden’s trip has fuelled a new courtship of this budding relationship. There had been talks that were in progress between the USA and Saudi Arabia for months.
“This is just the beginning. In a statement issued by his office, Israeli Caretaker Prime Minister Yair Lapid expressed his gratitude for the Saudi decision to open airspace. “We will continue to work with the necessary caution, for the sake of Israel’s economy, security, and the good of our population,” he added.
In a tweet, Yoel Razvozov, the minister of tourism, hailed Saudi Arabia “for creating a new vision of the Middle East” and noted in a tweet that the move will result in cheaper flights to East Asia. For Israeli Muslims as well, there will now be “cheaper, direct chartered flights to the annual Hajj pilgrimage in Mecca.”
There had been no diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel for decades because of the Palestinian issue. Saudi Arabia is yet to recognize its bilateral ties with Israel, despite a growing number of Arab countries recognizing Israel in recent years. One such example is the US-brokered historic deal of Abraham Accord between the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco, and Israel. But Saudi Arabia never opposed or commented on the Abraham Accord deal that involved its regional allies. Saudi Arabia remained firm in its stance on Palestinian settlement and the Israelis’ illegal occupation of the west bank. But it is said that the informal relations between the two countries have been in progress.
Joe Biden’s visit to the Middle East was first landed in Israel, followed by a two-day stay in the city. The visit further sparked nationwide questions about when he planned to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Friday. In a bid to start peace talks between the two rivals, Israel and Palestine, During his visit, he even embraced the idea of a two-state solution between the two. but emphasized that the time is not ripe for such ideas to be implemented.
The United States’ efforts to create a more integrated Middle East
The White House, while announcing the President’s visit to the Middle East, hinted that the tour could bring more Arab nations to pursue relations with Israel. Biden’s Middle East tour is aimed at the greater goal of achieving economic and security cooperation between the Arab nations. The key element is creating a coordinated air defense system to counter Iran. Part of the reason for Biden’s visit also lies in the Ukraine war, which has escalated insecurity globally due to the rise in oil prices.
US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan commented that the decision by Saudi paves the way for greater integration, stability, and security in the Middle East region, which is vital for the security and prosperity of the US and American people, and the security and prosperity of Israel.