After a 70 year ban on commercial flights using its airspace to fly to Israel, Saudi Arabia has granted for the first time permission for Air India flights bound for Israel to be able to fly over the Kingdom.
The decision, which will be implemented in March, means that the flights from New Delhi to Tel Aviv would be shortened by two and a half hours. It also means cheaper tickets for passengers.
The move is credited to the growing alliance and working relationship between Saudi Arabia and Israel. It is also a testament to the growing influence India has in the Middle East. India’s upgraded partnership with Israel to that of a strategic alliance has shuffled reltionships across the Arab world. Between Trump’s pushing and prodding and India’s PM Modi’s ripping up of the “Palestinian” narrative, the Crown Prince Muhammed Bin-Salman has found it necessary to begin forging ties with Israel.
The Saudi government had banned flights headed to Israel from using its airspace for 70 years. While it is no secret that private jets can fly from Saudi and other Gulf airports to Israel, they could not use the direct route and had to make a stop-over in Amman airport first.
The move by Saudi Arabia also confirms the Palestinian Authority’s worst fears that it is being pushed to the side in search for a real and lasting peace. Afterall, in the eyes of many in the Arab world, the times have changed and no longer are the “Palestinian” a necessary component of Arab nationalism. A smaller world has led to the realization that Israel is here to stay and furthermore can play an important roll in a Middle East that has moved byond sectarian tunnel vision.
Modi’s push for Air India to be able to fly over Saudi Arabia to Israel is beyond Trump’s peace moves, but rather reflects a changing world where traditional indigenous powers have come of age. It also reelcts Israel’s diversification in relationships.