All Israel-UAE Flights Allowed To Fly Through Saudi Airspace

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September 2, 2020

All flights between Israel and the United Arab Emirates have the green light to fly through Saudi Arabian airspace after diplomatic pressure from the Trump administration, Axios reported Wednesday.

The first flight from Israel to the UAE occurred on Monday, when Israeli and American delegations landed in the UAE to enter trilateral discussions regarding commerce and regional security.

Talks over airspace use commenced Tuesday between Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman and Jared Kushner, in which Riyadh approved civilian aviation transport through its airspace. Importantly, Israel does not currently have normalized or formal diplomatic ties with Saudi Arabia, rendering this agreement a potential step toward increased Israeli-Saudi engagement.

Calling the move "a huge breakthrough," Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu asserted the agreement would bring down costs of transport to the UAE and increase tourism between the countries. "These are the fruits of peace," he said, predicting that "more good news" would be coming.

Experts wonder if prolonged Israeli-Emirati engagement may lead to a regional domino effect that will increase cooperation between Israel and Gulf States concerned by Iran's destabilizing influence on the Middle East.

"Saudi Arabia will probably eventually follow a similar path, but it will be more hesitant and move slower," Ayham Kamel, Middle East head at the political-risk advisory firm Eurasia Group, said.

Washington officials now express increased optimism about the highest prize in the region—normalized relations between the Saudis and Israelis.

"Israel and the UAE are putting the region on a truly transformative path," National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien said.