As I pointed out with the launch of the blockade against Qatar last June, there’s a huge shift going on in the Mideast.
While conflict with Israel gets the most press in the U.S., the primary conflict is between Saudi Arabia (along with Turkey) seeking Sunni influence in the region and working to counter Shia Iran. The conflict in Syria, for instance, is largely a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran. The Saudis have fought Iran-backed rebels in Yemen over the past several years.
Though anti-Israel rhetoric continues, it’s notable that Turkish-Israeli trade has quadrupled under Erdoğan and economic interests are bringing the countries closer together.
Saudi Arabia has granted Air India approval to operate direct flights from Delhi to Tel Aviv, sources in the Israeli flight industry told Haaretz. This is the first time the Saudis are allowing flights to Israel to use their airspace.
The approval means that the duration of flights from India to Israel will be shortened by two-and-a-half hours, compared to the route currently in use.
Saudi Arabia doesn’t just ban flights between the Kingdom and Israel but until now has banned aircraft departing from or bound for Israel from using its airspace. The only known flights to circumvent this restriction were by US Presidents onboard Air Force One. Private flights using Saudi airspace generally make Amman, Jordan a technical stop to circumvent this restriction.
El Al though isn’t expected to benefit from this liberalization. Such a move would be a step too far politically even as Saudi Arabia seeks to liberalize internally as well as thaw relations with Israel in service of joint security concerns.