Oman will let Israeli planes fly through its airspace, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday, in another sign of his country’s efforts toward ties with Arab states despite the conflict with the Palestinians.
The announcement follows Netanyahu’s surprise visit to Oman in October. Only two Arab countries — Jordan and Egypt — officially recognise Israel.
“When I was in Oman I spoke with Sultan Qaboos, who told me El Al would be able to fly over Oman,” Netanyahu said.
The permission however provides Israel with little immediate practical use since its planes cannot fly over Oman’s neighbour Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia in March began allowing Air India flights between New Delhi and Tel Aviv to use its airspace, but not Israeli carriers.
Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and conflict with the Palestinians have been obstacles toward relations with Arab countries.
Speaking with Israeli diplomats in an annual conference in Jerusalem, Netanyahu claimed that unspecified Arab leaders do not wish to condition their “normalisation with Israel” on resolving the conflict with the Palestinians.
“This doesn’t mean peace agreements (with Arab states) yet, but it certainly means that our progress toward normalisation and peace, instead of what we always thought — from peace with the Palestinians to the Arab world — could happen in the opposite direction,” he said.
Israel has made headway in recent months in its efforts towards ties with Arab nations in the Gulf that do not officially recognise the country, including through sport.
In October, Israeli Sports Minister Miri Regev toured the UAE’s famed Sheikh Zayed mosque, Israel’s communications minister delivered a speech in Dubai and the Israeli national anthem was played at a judo competition in Abu Dhabi.