Saudis to Allow Israel Flights, Arab League Rebuffs Palestinians in Victories for Trump Diplomacy

Saudi Arabia on Wednesday agreed to allow eastbound flights from Israel to use its airspace ahead of the signing ceremony for the U.S.-brokered normalization deal between the Jewish state and Abu Dhabi next week.

The significant change in policy came hours after the Arab League declined to endorse Palestinian's efforts to condemn the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for the agreement, marking twin victories for Trump diplomacy and a blow to Palestinians.

Senior White House adviser Jared Kushner, who is also President Donald Trump's son-in-law, announced Saudi Arabia opening their skies to Israel in a conference call to reporters earlier today.

"They agreed to open their airspace not just to flights from Israel to the United Arab Emirates and back, but to all eastward travel," Kushner said, adding that all Israel flights that ask for airspace permission will be granted it.

"That will save people a lot of time. That knocks down a barrier that's been up for 72 years."

While Saudi Arabia will not join the UAE in normalizing relations with Israel, the first peace agreement between the two states in over a quartet of a century, the gesture to allow flights is a significant step that will boost travel and tourism.

Trump and Kushner have focused their Middle East strategy on building a coalition of Sunni Arab states against Shiite Iran, seen by many Arab leaders as a bigger threat than Israel.

In the process, the Trump administration has upended the decades old U.S. policy of trying to broker deals between Israel and the Palestinians by appearing to be even handed in its diplomacy. Kushner's Middle East peace plan envisages concessions from the Palestinians that they have rejected out of hand.

Kushner Saudi
White House Advisor Jared Kushner, watches alongside a member of the Saudi Delegation during a meeting between President Donald Trump and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in the Oval Office at the White House on March 20, 2018 in Washington, D.C. Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty

"Many people in the region are losing their patience regarding the Palestinian leadership," Kushner told reporters Wednesday. He then called for Palestine to return to the negotiating table, but noted that America isn't "going to chase them."

The administration's bet the Arab leaders have largely tired of the Palestinian cause appeared to pay off when Palestinian effort to secure condemnation of the deal between Israel and the UAE, failed at the Arab League, which kicked Egypt out of it ranks four decades ago for signing the first peace deal with the Jewish state.

The draft resolution to condemn the agreement was presented to the Arab League in a meeting with its foreign minsters after the Palestinian Authority (PA) called on Arab states to denounce the normalization agreement—but the Arab League didn't pass it.

Kushner explained that their position further proves the countries in the Middle East are moving to do what's best for their own economies and citizens.

Saudi Arabia's "King Salman and the Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, they feel very strongly about the Palestinian cause. They would like to see the Palestinians work a fair deal and improve the lives of their people," Trump's son-in-law said. "But again, they're going to do what's in the best interests of Saudi Arabia and the Saudi people"

PA Foreign Minister Riad Malki called Kushner and the Trump administration's efforts to broker the normalization deal "blackmail" and a "stab in the back" during the video conference meeting with the Arab League.

The agreement, scheduled to be signed at the White House next Tuesday, prompted rising tensions between Palestinians and a number of Gulf states. Immediately after its announcement last month, the PA requested an emergency meeting with the Arab League to discuss the development, which the league rejected.

Newsweek reached out to the Palestinian foreign ministry and White House for comment. This story will be updated with any response.