(Photo Credit: AFP)
An Israeli commercial flight bound for Tel Aviv entered Saudi airspace on 4 August, for the first time since the kingdom opened its skies to Israel.
A day prior, Israel announced that their broadcasting corporation received official approval from Saudi authorities, allowing Israeli flights to travel over the kingdom’s airspace.
The Saudi authorities noted that this approval is important for Israeli tourists heading to or returning from countries located in East Asia, as well as for Muslim pilgrims from Israel who want to proceed with their Hajj to Mecca.
The authorities added that they are still waiting for permission from Oman, to allow Israeli flights from traveling over their airspace.
A flight tracking service showed the plane flying over the UAE and Persian Gulf before crossing over the Saudi coastline near the city of Damman. The plane flew over northern Saudi Arabia and Jordan, and entered Israeli territory north of the Dead Sea.
Last month, Riyadh announced that it had opened its airspace to all civilian overflights, days before US President Joe Biden became the first US president to directly fly from Israel to the kingdom.
The two nations do not have diplomatic relations, but Riyadh and Tel Aviv have had several covert discussions, with reports indicating that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) has come to see Israel as a strategic partner against Iran.
Despite successful talks between the two, Israel’s then foreign minister, Yair Lapid, said on 30 May that Tel Aviv has been talking with the US and Gulf countries about the possibility of normalizing relations with Saudi Arabia.
As part of these efforts, Riyadh has relaxed the entry rules for Israeli passport holders, and dozens of business people representing Tel Aviv have recently traveled to the kingdom.
Lapid’s statements were made following reports by Israeli media that reveal several senior security and political figures from Israel visited the kingdom over the past decade, as part of US-sponsored efforts toward the normalization of ties.
One of these secret meetings was between former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and MbS in November 2020.
The meeting was also attended by former US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, and the former head of the Mossad, Yossi Cohen.