Israel-Saudi direct flights likely next month


Israel’s top diplomat said this weekend that normalisation with Saudi Arabia could happen within six months….reports Asian Lite News

Israel is working with Saudi Arabia to allow direct flights for its Muslim citizens who will undertake the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca next month, the Foreign Ministry in Tel Aviv said Monday.

A ministry spokesman told the Tazpit Press Service that Israel was working to reach an agreement over the flights. Saudi approval for them would be another step forward in normalization between the nations. Israel has issued a formal request for the flights and is awaiting the Saudi response, Foreign Minister Eli Cohen said earlier this month.

Israel’s top diplomat said this weekend that normalisation with Saudi Arabia could happen within six months.

Currently, Israelis who undertake the annual pilgrimage have to travel through third countries such as Jordan, incurring increased expenses on both the outbound and return journeys. About 18 per cent of Israeli citizens are Muslim. Around 6,000 Israelis make the Hajj each year.

Biden administration officials predicted last year that such flights would be arranged.

Saudi Arabia has allowed Israeli commercial planes to overfly its territory since the summer of 2022.

Israeli officials have noted that the confirmation could come next month at the eleventh hour, just before the pilgrimage begins.

The Hajj, which is set to take place this year between June 26 and July 1, is a once-in-a-lifetime obligatory pilgrimage for all Muslims who are physically and financially capable of undertaking it.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly voiced the hope of reaching a peace accord with Saudi Arabia, saying it would be a “quantum leap” for regional peace that would effectively end the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Israel wants young immigrants

According to a plan written in collaboration with the Jerusalem Municipality and with the assistance of the Jewish Agency, the State of Israel will act with the aim of encouraging young immigrants aged 18-35, single and married, to settle in Jerusalem, establish their home there, strengthen the city and be a significant component in the development of the city both in terms of the number of residents and in all areas of life.

According to data from the Central Bureau of Statistics, since 2018 over 18,000 new immigrants immigrated to Israel and settled first in Jerusalem, about half of them young people aged 18-35. However, alongside the large percentage of young people who come to the city, about 30% of them have left Jerusalem in the last 5 years. The profile of the young immigrants who arrive in the city constitute a substantial human and economic resource for the city, and as part of the commitment of the Ministry of Immigration and Absorption and the Minister Sofer to strengthen the status of Jerusalem, the program was formulated with the aim of promoting the optimal integration of the immigrants in the city in all areas of life, strengthening their sense of belonging to the place and finding their home in it, and thereby contributing to strengthen the city.

The program will operate on several levels, including encouraging immigration to Jerusalem, which includes holding unique annual fairs abroad to encourage immigrants to settle in Jerusalem, the establishment of young immigrant centers in Jerusalem in cooperation with the Jewish Agency that will work to absorb the immigrants. (ANI/TPS)

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