Saudi Arabia to permit all Israeli flights to fly over its airspace

Senior White House adviser Jared Kushner says Saudi Arabia and Bahrain have agreed to open airspaces to all flights from Israel.

Elad Benari ,

Jared Kushner
Jared Kushner

Senior White House adviser Jared Kushner announced on Wednesday that Saudi Arabia and Bahrain have agreed to open their airspaces to all flights from Israel.

"Saudi Arabia and Bahrain will allow all Israeli flights to pass over their territory, and not just flights to and from the Emirates," he told reporters during a press briefing.

The move means that Israeli airlines will be able to fly from Israel to Asia and significantly shorten flight times.

"That will save people a lot of time and knock down a barrier that's been up for 72 years,” said Kushner, adding, “Countries starting to let go of old conflicts and move in the direction of peace.”

The Saudi move, he noted, “will cut down a lot of the travel time between different countries that allow people from Saudi to go to Europe faster if they fly over Israel and people from Israel to Asia and Asia to Israel to have much more connectivity.”

“It's a tremendous barrier that's been taken away. You're seeing everyday new announcements of airlines that are looking to fly from Israel to different Arab cities that traditionally they weren't allowed to go to and backward. You have a lot of excitement building in the Arab world and Muslim world with people wanting to go to Israel to visit the tourist sites and to pray at the Al-Aqsa Mosque. You're seeing kosher restaurants opening up now and Dubai and so every day we're seeing new and new announcements, which is showing the progress that this peace is bringing to the Middle East,” Kushner said.

Kushner also commented about the ceremony to sign the agreement between Israel and the UAE, which is scheduled to take place at the White House next week, and said the administration plans to invite representatives from both parties to attend.

"This is something that should be bipartisan. We will invite Democrats or Republicans to be here. This has been praised by people on both sides of the aisle, and hopefully, this is one issue that can stay out of politics,” he said.

Commenting on the Trump administration’s peace plan for Israel and the Palestinian Authority, Kushner said, “People want to see a resolution that's fair and proper, but they're not going to hold back their own progress now in order to allow this conflict to continue to be stuck in the mud.”

“We put out the most detailed proposal ever for the Palestinians,” he continued. “Israel agreed to a state for the Palestinians, and they agreed to a map, which is something that had never been done before. In the first meetings with [PA chairman Mahmoud] Abbas, he said, ‘If you could get Israel to agree to a map, then the rest will be easy to figure out.’ We did better than that. We got them to agree to a state.”

“We worked very carefully on that proposal, which is what we thought would be a fair place to start from America. Israel agreed to negotiate on that basis, and then the Palestinians rejected it before it even came out. So before they even knew what was in it. Their strategy has been just to try to avoid getting into the details on this. But I think that there's a real desire in the region to try to see it resolved and move on. The offer still remains out there for their leadership, we've chosen not to chase them, but the moment that they're ready to engage, we believe that we have the ability to make a peace deal between them and Israel. We can't want them to have peace more than they want to have peace,” he stressed.

Saudi Arabia last week announced that it would permit United Arab Emirates flights to "all countries", including Israel, to pass through its airspace.

Earlier that week, the historic first flights from Israel to the United Arab Emirates and back again flew over Saudi Arabian airspace.

Bahrain also announced last week that it had accepted a request from the government of the United Arab Emirates to allow flights between the UAE and Israel to cross its airspace.

Bahrain’s announcement follows reports that it is expected to announce the normalization of ties with Israel very soon, perhaps following the official signing of Israel’s agreement with the United Arab Emirates.

Saudi Arabia so far has poured cold water on the idea of an agreement with Israel. Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz told US President Donald Trump this week there would be no normalization with Israel without Palestinian statehood.