Israel’s regional cooperation minister says that he has asked Saudi Arabia to admit direct flights from Tel Aviv for Muslim pilgrims to perform the Hajj ahead of next week’s visit by US President Joe Biden.
Israeli Regional Cooperation Minister Esawi Freij on Thursday expressed Israel has been functioning to carry what he believed as “under-the-counter” contacts between the countries – based mostly on commercial interests and collective worries about Iran.
“I want to see the day when I can depart from Ben-Gurion [airport] to Jeddah to fulfil my religious obligation” of pilgrimage to Mecca, said Freij, a member of Israel’s 18 percent Muslim minority.
Saudi Arabia allows Muslim pilgrims from Israel but they must travel through third countries. It costs approximately $11,500 for a week-long stay, Freij said. However, Pilgrims from neighboring Arab countries pay around half of that.
Saudi Arabia does not recognize Israel and has said nothing of possible bilateral developments during Biden’s visit.
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Separately, an Israeli daily newspaper reported that an adviser to Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince said that the probability of holding a meeting between Saudi, American and Israeli officials was being considered during Biden’s visit to the kingdom next week.