El Al Israel Airlines plane (Moshe Shai/Flash90) (Moshe Shai/Flash90)
El Al

“This decision is the result of the President’s persistent and principled diplomacy with Saudi Arabia over many months, culminating in his visit today,” US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said in a statement.

By United with Israel Staff

Saudi Arabia has announced permission for commercial airliners flying to and from Israel to cross its airspace, bringing the two countries one step closer to normalization.

The news comes amid the backdrop of U.S. President Joe Biden’s visit to Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Saudi Arabia this week. The announcement was made just hours before Biden took off Friday directly from Tel Aviv to Jeddah.

Permission is also being granted for Israeli Muslims to take direct charter flights so they can participate in annual pilgrimages to Mecca.

“This decision is the result of the President’s persistent and principled diplomacy with Saudi Arabia over many months, culminating in his visit today,” US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said in a statement from the White House shortly after the announcement.

Israel and the Saudis do not have formal diplomatic relations, but have been moving closer amid shared concerns about threats from Iran.

Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid celebrated the news.

“After a long road of intense and covert diplomacy with Saudi Arabia and the United States, today we have good news. The Saudi aviation authorities have announced that they will be opening Saudi airspace to Israeli airlines,” he said in a statement Friday.

“This decision was preceded by the signing of the ‘Jerusalem Declaration’, deepening America’s commitment to Israel’s security, the fight against the Iranian nuclear program and the advancing of normalization initiatives of the Abraham Accords and the Negev Summit,” he said.

On Thursday, Biden and Lapid adopted a historic joint declaration on the U.S.-Israel Strategic Partnership, dubbed the Jerusalem Declaration.

In the declaration, the two allies “reaffirm the unbreakable bonds between our two countries and the enduring commitment of the United States to Israel’s security.”

“I would like to thank the President of the United States, Joe Biden, for a visit that moved our entire country and for his commitment to Israel’s military and diplomatic strength. I wish him success at the Jeddah Summit,” Lapid said Friday, regarding the Saudi announcement.

“I thank the Saudi leadership for the opening of Saudi airspace. This is only the first step. We will continue working with necessary caution, for the sake of Israel’s economy, security and the good of our citizens,” he concluded.

Minister of Transport and Road Safety Merav Michaeli MK welcomed the Saudi decision.

“This is an important step by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia that will significantly shorten flight times and lower prices of flights between Israel and the east.

“Above all, it is another step towards better and stronger relations with the countries of the Middle East, relations which will bring critical benefits to our security and to our economy,” she said.