El Al said to ask permission for Israel-UAE flight to cross Saudi airspace

Request relayed through National Security Council and other mediators, according to report; first-ever commercial passenger flight to take off Monday

El Al planes parked at Ben Gurion International Airport in Lod, Israel, on August 3, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
El Al planes parked at Ben Gurion International Airport in Lod, Israel, on August 3, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

El Al has reportedly asked Saudi Arabia to use its airspace when one of its planes on Monday makes the first-ever commercial passenger flight from Israel to the United Arab Emirates, following the countries’ US-brokered agreement to normalize ties.

According to the Israeli news site Ynet on Saturday, the request was relayed on El Al’s behalf by way of the National Security Council and other unspecified mediators. The Saudis have yet to respond.

Earlier this week, The Times of Israel reported that the Foreign Ministry was conducting talks with Saudi Arabia about the flight potentially passing over Saudi airspace, but the matter wasn’t final, according to a source with knowledge of the talks.

On Friday, Israel listed the El Al flight taking off on Monday for Abu Dhabi on the Israel Airports Authority website.

It said the flight would be numbered LY971, a nod to the UAE’s international calling code number. A return flight to Ben Gurion International Airport on Tuesday will be numbered LY972, Israel’s international calling code.

Among those set to be on the flight are White House senior adviser Jared Kushner and several other senior Trump administration officials, who are scheduled to arrive in Israel over the weekend.

White House senior adviser Jared Kushner speaks at a press briefing at the White House, following the announcement of Israel’s normalization agreement with the UAE, August 13, 2020. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

An Israeli delegation led by National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat will also be on the flight. Also taking part would be the head of the Civil Aviation Authority and the directors of the PMO, the Foreign Ministry and the Defense Ministry.

According to Army Radio, a preparatory team from Israel arrived in the UAE on Friday ahead of the formal delegation.

Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said the talks in Abu Dhabi would focus on ways to promote collaborations in fields including aviation, tourism, trade, finance, health, energy and defense.

It will be El Al’s first commercial flight in months, after it shut down most of its operations due to the coronavirus pandemic. The airline will bring three furloughed senior pilots back to work for the flight, according to Hebrew-language media reports Thursday.

Kushner and the US delegation will also travel to several Arab states, as the Trump administration pushes other countries to normalize ties with Israel.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo this week visited Israel, the UAE and a number of other countries in the region in a bid to expand on the agreement between Jerusalem and Abu Dhabi, but appeared to return home empty-handed.

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