The first-ever commercial flight by Israel’s biggest airline El Al has used a new corridor over Saudi Arabia and Oman after taking off from the occupied territories, as Muscat and Riyadh made an apparent gesture of openness toward the Tel Aviv regime.
El Al Flight 083 departed from Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport on Sunday evening toward Bangkok. The flight took around eight hours to reach Thailand’s capital.
The new route would shorten flights to some Asian destinations by about two hours, according to a statement released by the company.
Omani authorities announced earlier that all airlines could overfly the country’s territory as of February 23, joining neighboring Saudi Arabia in providing a corridor for Israeli carriers.
Israel has been hoping Oman would join the US-brokered Abraham Accords, under which the regime normalized diplomatic relations with United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco in 2020.
Oman has hosted Israeli leaders over the years. But, Muscat has declared that any normalization of relations with the Tel Aviv regime would require the establishment of a sovereign independent Palestinian state.
Back in July 2022, the Saudi General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) said in a statement that the country’s airspace was now open to all carriers, including those of Israel, following a trip by US President Joe Biden to the kingdom and the Israeli-occupied territories.
Biden met Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman and other regional leaders during the high-profile visit last July.
Saudi Arabia did not show any opposition when the UAE, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco became the first Arab countries in decades to normalize relations with Israel in a deal brokered by former US president Donald Trump.
The oil-rich kingdom has not shown official signs to jump on the bandwagon. But, the two sides have seen growing contacts and de-facto rapprochement in recent years, despite claims that it is committed to the 2002 so-called Arab Peace Initiative, which conditions normalizing ties with Israel on the establishment of an independent, sovereign Palestinian state within the 1967 borders.
The Riyadh regime in November 2020 granted permission for Israeli airlines to use its airspace, hours before the first Israeli flight to the UAE was set to take off.
Palestinian leaders, activists and ordinary people have repeatedly rejected Arab-Israeli normalization deals as “a stab in the back” of the Palestinian cause and the Palestinian people.