U.S. officials tell Israelis efforts underway to reach agreements ahead of June when pilgrimage to start with option of Jordanian carriers to be used to offset financial hit to the neighboring kingdom

An Israeli official said on Sunday that talks were proceeding to allow direct flights from Israel to Jeddah for pilgrims to Mecca, estimating agreement could come within a month.

MBS, Benjamin Netanyahu, Joe Biden
(Photo: EPA, AP)

The subject was raised by U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and Brett McGurk, President Joe Biden’s envoy to Saudi Arabia. McGurk raised the matter with officials in Jerusalem and with the Director General of the Foreign Ministry Ronen Levi during his visit to Washington last week.

(Photo: Shutterstock)

The Biden administration has been trying to convince the Saudis to agree to the direct flights for the past year but has yet to succeed. Sullivan hinted at a chance for a change in the kingdom’s policies earlier this month in a speech to the Washington Institute for Near East Policies ahead of his visit to Riyad.

On Sunday, Saudi Arabia strongly condemned Israel for the visit of National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir to the Temple Mount, seen as a provocation of Muslims. Ben-Gvir said his visit was an indication to all as to who is in charge.

Itamar Ben-Gvir goes to Temple Mount
(Photo: Otzmah Yehudit Party )

The pilgrimage to the Muslim holy sites in the Gulf Nation is set to begin in June so logistics must be in place before that.

Israeli Muslims have had to travel via Jordan in order to fulfill their religious duty in the pilgrimage and direct flights from Israel to Saudi Arabia would constitute a financial blow to the neighboring kingdom. One possible solution would be to allow Jordanian airliners to transport the pilgrims from Israel.

Saud Arabia opened its airspace to Israeli flights last July and in February, Oman also allowed Israeli carriers to use its airspace, shortening flight time to the Far East.

As reported by Ynetnews