An airliner carrying Israeli and US delegations to the UAE on Monday flew over Saudi Arabia as the first publicly acknowledged entry of an Israeli plane into Saudi air space, reported Reuters.
Israel’s flag carrier El Al carried aides to US President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – along with travelling journalists – to Abu Dhabi for talks to put final touches on a pact establishing open relations between the United Arab Emirates and Israel.
The US-brokered deal between the UAE and Israel has raised speculation that other US-backed Gulf Arab countries might follow. A senior member of the Saudi royal family said this month that Riyadh would only normalize ties with Israel after the creation of a Palestinian state.
Will more countries follow UAE example?
US President Donald Trump’s national security adviser said on Sunday more Arab and Muslim countries were likely to follow the United Arab Emirates in normalizing relations with Israel, reports Reuters.
The White House official, Robert O’Brien, and Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner met Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on the eve of talks in Abu Dhabi on Monday on finalizing formal Israel-UAE ties.
Israel and the UAE announced on August 13 that they would forge official ties under a deal brokered by Washington. The diplomatic move reshapes the Middle East order, from the Palestinian issue to relations with Iran.
Speaking to reporters after talks at Netanyahu’s residence, O’Brien said:
We believe that other Arab and Muslim countries will soon follow the United Arab Emirates’ lead and normalize relations with Israel.
He did not name the states, but Israeli officials have publicly mentioned Oman, Bahrain and Sudan.
Palestinians have condemned the UAE’s move as abandonment of a policy of linking official relations with Israel to achievement of Palestinian statehood in territory captured by Israel in a 1967 war.
The Trump administration has been trying to coax other Sunni Arab countries that share Israel’s concerns about Iran to join in a regional peace push.
Kushner, speaking alongside Netanyahu and O’Brien, said the UAE deal was a “giant step forward” in the direction.
“To have played a role in its creation, and I say this as the grandson of two Holocaust survivors, it means more to me and to my family that I can ever express,” Kushner said.
Kushner, O’Brien and other US officials will join an Israeli delegation on Monday in the first flight by an Israeli commercial airline – El Al – to the UAE.
Speaking on Israel’s Kan public radio on Sunday, Israeli Regional Cooperation Minister Ofir Akunis said Israel hopes to hold a signing ceremony in Washington for the UAE deal by mid-September.
In 2018, Netanyahu made a surprise visit to Oman on a tight schedule that suggested his plane would have had to fly over Saudi Arabia. He and his aides refused to provide any details on that route.