Despite ongoing deliberations among Israeli, Saudi, and U.S. representatives, Tzachi Hanegbi, the Chairperson of the Israeli National Security Council, confirmed on Tuesday that direct flights for Muslim pilgrims traveling from Israel to Saudi Arabia will not be available in time for this year’s Hajj.
The establishment of a direct air route has been perceived by the Biden administration as a milestone toward a potential normalization pact between Israel and Saudi Arabia. This notion was encapsulated within a series of measures endorsed by Washington during President Biden’s trip to the region last July. This also featured Riyadh’s consent to allow overflights from Israel.
The U.S. administration, in its announcement, expressed appreciation for the contemplated measures, encompassing the launch of direct flights from Israel to Jeddah for the forthcoming year’s Hajj on approved airlines.
Since that announcement, the involved parties have been negotiating to commence these flights in time for this year’s Hajj pilgrimage, scheduled from June 25 to July 2.
However, Hanegbi, while addressing the Kan public broadcaster, stated that the target wouldn’t be met in time. He expressed hope for the subsequent Hajj season, saying, “Perhaps for the next Hajj, we will be in a position to help in this matter, and [direct] flights will depart from here… but it’s too early to say.”