Israel Ask for Flight to Saudia
By Micah Halpern
srael's regional cooperation minister has asked Saudi Arabia to allow direct flights from Tel Aviv to Riyadh for Muslim pilgrims.
Israeli officials have also been seeking expanded permission for their airlines to fly over Saudi soil to better reach Asian destinations.
A person in Washington who was familiar with the matter said the new aviation deals sought by Israel could be announced around the time of Biden's visit, but that details still needed to be worked out and may not be completed in time.
Israelís Regional Cooperation Minister Esawi Freij is a member of Israelís 18% Muslim minority.† Speaking as both a Muslim and a member of government, he said: "I want to see the day when I can depart from Ben-Gurion (airport near Tel Aviv) to Jeddah to fulfil my religious obligation" of pilgrimage to Mecca.Ē
"I took this matter up with Saudi Arabia and I really hope that day will come," he told Israel's Army Radio, without expanding on where or when such discussions took place.
Saudi Arabia has long admitted Muslim pilgrims from Israel, but they must travel through third-party countries to get there. That ends up costing around $11,500 for a week-long stay, Freij said. Pilgrims from neighboring Arab countries pay around half that much for their travel.
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