PNN / Bethlehem
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday claimed that Saudi Arabia had approved flights by Air India, the national airline in India, to cross over Saudi airspace, but were shifty denied by Air India officials.
‘We have not received any confirmation. We have only submitted our request for a flight. We have yet to receive anything from authorities,’ Air India spokesman Praveen Bhatnagar told The Times of Israel.
Netanyahu had said on Monday that ‘Air India signed an agreement today to fly to Israel over Saudi Arabia,’ during a briefing at the Blair House in Washington, DC, where Netanyahu is staying through his attendance at the annual AIPAC conference.
The approval would have dramatically cut flight time from Mumbai to Tel Aviv – the current flight plan skirts the Gulf States and their airspace – and would have signalled a dramatic shift in the historically icy relations between Riyadh and Tel Aviv.
Similar claims arose earlier this year when in February Israeli media reported that plans were approved for Air India to fly over Saudi airspace to India in lieu of a March 20 launch in time for the Passover holiday.
Currently, El Al, the national Israeli airline, is the only airline that offers direct flights from Israel to India, via the aforementioned Tel Aviv-Mumbai route.
The proposed plan was swiftly denied by The Saudi Arabia Aviation Authority who claimed to never have given such permission and that no deal was struck with India or Israel to approve the flight plan.
The incident this week has yet draw response from Saudi officials.
Leaders from Israel and the United States lauded praise on the Gulf States of Saudi Arabia under the Crown Prince Mohammod Bin Salman (MBS) and the UAE for their ‘commitment to fight terrorism,’ at the AIPAC meeting this week.
The hostile relations between Israel-Iran and Saudi-Iran have spurred international commentators to propose the possibility of future alliances and diplomatic normalisation in light of their common enemy.
Saudi Arabia’s response to the decision made by US President Donald Trump to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital was markedly muted.
The House of Said failed to send any leading officials to an extraordinary meeting of Islamic Cooperation Council that met shortly after President Trump’s proclamation, and which hosted both Iranian President Rouhani and Turkish President Erdogan who have been vocal objectors to Trump’s decision.
Members of the conference also voiced praise for the program of social reform under the MBS that has swept through Saudi Arabia since the Crown Prince took office last year.