Saudis okay Israeli use of airspace on way to UAE, hours before maiden flight

Decision comes after Jerusalem reportedly asked US to press Riyadh on the matter; move reportedly only good for four days and does not cover Israeli flights to other destinations

Saudi Arabia reportedly granted permission for Israeli airlines to use its airspace on Monday, just hours before the first Israeli flight to the United Arab Emirates was set to take off, following a flurry of a diplomatic activity including reported US in.

Israir is scheduled to fly the first ever commercial flight by an Israeli airline to Dubai on Tuesday morning, a major milestone in burgeoning ties between Israel and its new Gulf allies.

However, the flight was reportedly in danger of being canceled before Saudi Arabia granted long-sought overflight permission Monday evening, according to Hebrew media reports.

Many passengers seeking to be among the first Israelis to visit the UAE as tourists had not known until the last moment whether their trip would be able to go ahead.

Without traversing Saudi airspace, flights to the UAE would be significantly lengthened, from three hours to over eight hours, making them unsustainable, and Israir was reportedly mulling canceling the groundbreaking trip.

According to Channel 12 news, the permission from Riyadh is only good for the next four days and only covers flights to Dubai, a significantly more paltry concession than what Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had touted in early September as a “huge breakthrough” that would “open up the East.”

It was not immediately clear if the permission extended to national carrier El Al, which is also set to launch regular flights to the UAE next month.

An Israeli official familiar with the matter told The Times of Israel that there was a “green light” in principle, but the formalities had not yet been sorted out.

There was no confirmation from Riyadh.

Israeli officials had reached out to Jared Kushner, US President Donald Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law who is set to travel to Saudi Arabia this week, to press Riyadh on the matter, the Ynet news site reported, quoting an unnamed official familiar with the matter.

Kushner’s visit is an apparent last-ditch effort to broker a normalization deal between the kingdom and Israel. He will meet Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Neom — the Red Sea city where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week allegedly held a secret rendezvous with the prince, alongside US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

It was the first known visit to Saudi Arabia by an Israeli leader, but the talks on Iran and possible normalization reportedly yielded no substantial progress.

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