(JNS) Israel is working with Saudi Arabia to allow direct flights for its Muslim citizens who will undertake the hajj pilgrimage to Mecca next month, the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem said Monday.
A ministry spokesman told JNS that Israel was working to reach an agreement over the flights. Saudi approval for them would be another step forward in normalization between the nations.
Israel has issued a formal request for the flights and is awaiting the Saudi response, Foreign Minister Eli Cohen said earlier this month.
Israel’s top diplomat said this weekend that normalization with Saudi Arabia could happen within six months.
Currently, Israelis who undertake the annual pilgrimage have to travel through third countries such as Jordan, incurring increased expenses on both the outbound and return journeys.
Biden administration officials predicted last year that such flights would be arranged.
Israeli officials have noted that the confirmation could come just before the pilgrimage begins.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly voiced the hope of reaching a peace accord with Saudi Arabia, saying it would be a “quantum leap” for regional peace that would effectively end the Arab-Israeli conflict.
This weekend, US officials said that President Joe Biden was pushing for a deal between the two countries and earlier this month, senior White House officials flew from Saudi Arabia to Israel to brief Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on ongoing talks between the US and Saudia Arabia.