Israel in talks with Saudi to organise special flights for Haj pilgrims | world-news | Hindustan Times
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Israel in talks with Saudi to organise special flights for Haj pilgrims

Officially, Saudi Arabia does not recognise Israel but over the past few years, the two countries have grown closer due to rising tensions with Iran and the threat of the Islamic State.

world Updated: Jul 14, 2017 22:14 IST
HT Correspondent
The Kaaba at the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia.
The Kaaba at the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia.(Reuters File)

In what appears to be a boost for Israel’s Muslim citizens, the Benjamin Netanyahu government is in talks with Saudi Arabia to organise special pilgrimage flights to Mecca for the Haj.

According to the proposal, Israeli Muslims will be able to fly directly into Saudi Arabia from Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion International Airport, Bloomberg reported.

The move comes weeks after US President Donald Trump — a crucial ally for both countries — broke a historical taboo by flying directly from Riyadh to Tel Aviv.

Officially, Saudi Arabia does not recognise Israel but over the past few years, the two countries have grown closer due to rising tensions with Iran — a common foe — and the threat of the Islamic State.

The Grand Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. (Reuters File)

Israeli news outlet Heraatz reported that Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Mohammed bin Salman has had several meetings with Israeli officials over the past two years.

Around 6,000 Israeli Arabs travel to Saudi Arabia for the Haj every year, enduring a long and hard bus journey across the Jordan river and the desert. Only a few lucky Israeli pilgrims are allowed to fly to Saudi Arabia from Jordan’s Queen Alia International Airport.

Because Saudi Arabia doesn’t honour Israeli passports, the pilgrims are issued temporary Jordanian travel documents.