Following the opening of Saudi airspace to direct Air India flights from Delhi to Tel Aviv, Prime Minister Benjamin hinted at Sunday’s cabinet meeting that the next goal is to allow direct El Al flights over Saudi Arabia from Tel Aviv to Mumbai.
El Al currently has four direct flights from Tel Aviv to Mumbai, but it must take a circuitous route to skirt around Saudi Arabia, and a flight that should take just under five hours ends up taking about eight.
Though he did not mention El Al by name, Netanyahu said following the Air India flights, “The goal that I hope we set for ourselves is that the next flight or flights will also include direct flights from Tel Aviv to Mumbai in five hours
, less time than Tel Aviv to London. The significance of that would be enormous.”
Saudi Arabia, while granting overfly rights to Air India for flights to and from Israel, has so far been unwilling to do the same for El Al.
Netanyahu characterized Thursday’s
inaugural Air India flight as “historic.”
“The significance of this is clear to everyone,” he said. “This has tourist, economic, technological, and diplomatic significance of the first degree.”
“Israel’s economy will grow in two ways – either with new products or through new markets,” Netanyahu said, “What we did here is break through to huge new markets, and this is a very big change.”
Netanyahu said paving the way for the Air India flights had taken a number of years and created “tremendous potential for Israel. I think the long-term significance for Israel will become clear later, but now there is no need to talk more about it, in order to ensure other similar developments.”
Among those whom Netanyahu thanked for making this possible were National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabat, former top foreign policy adviser Yitzhak Molcho, Tourism Minister Yariv Levin, Transportation Minister Israel Katz and Director-General of the Prime Minister’s Office Eli Groner.
During statements before the cabinet meeting, Netanyahu also praised the United States Congress for approving the Taylor Force Act last Friday. The law will freeze State Department funds to the Palestinian Authority unless the PA stops paying stipends to terrorists and their families.
The law was named after an American student and US Army veteran who was murdered by a terrorist in Jaffa in 2016. It was signed into law by President Donald Trump as part of an omnibus spending package.
Netanyahu said that the law was meant to “deprive the Palestinian Authority of hundreds of millions of dollars that it invests in encouraging terrorism and in cultivating terrorist families and the terrorists themselves.”
Netanyahu said that passage of the law was a “strong message that the United States is changing the rules.”
Washington, Netanyahu said, is “no longer willing to accept past truths – or, I should say, past lies – and live with them,” he said. “They are just revealing one lie after the next and putting in their place one truth after the next.”
Netanyahu has made similar statements about the US “changing the rules of the game” a number of times in recent weeks when speaking about the significance of Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
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