Saudi Arabia Allows Israeli Aircraft To Fly Over Territory For First Time In Decades
SAUDI ARABIA - Saudi Arabia on Friday made an announcement that it is lifting restrictions on "all [Israeli] carriers", allowing them to use airspace over the country after a decades-long ban. The Saudi civil aviation authority put out an announcement saying, "the decision to open the Kingdom's airspace for all air carriers that meet the requirements of the authority for overflying".
It also added that the decision was made "to complement the Kingdom's efforts aimed at consolidating the Kingdom's position as a global hub connecting three continents".
The announcement was made as U.S. President Joe Biden was preparing to visit the country Friday, at which time he met the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman and greeted him with a warm fist bump.
U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan put out a statement addressing the visit saying, "This decision is the result of the President's persistent and principled diplomacy with Saudi Arabia over many months, culminating in his visit today".
This, despite the fact that the U.S. president had made a statement in 2020 stating that he was going to make Saudi Arabia "the pariah that they are" after the Saudi Crown Prince was found by a U.S. intelligence report to have given the the 'capture or kill' order which led to the murder of 59-year-old journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018 while he was visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey.
The intelligence report was released by the Biden administration, along with sanctions being placed on a number of Saudi Arabian citizens. No sanctions however were placed on the Saudi Crown prince himself.
Saudi Arabia had called the intelligence report "negative, false and unacceptable" and Crown Prince Mohammed denied having anything to do with the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.
Khashoggi was once an adviser to the Saudi government and close to the royal family, according to BBC News, who said that he fell out of favor with the royal family and went into a self-imposed exile in 2017 where he became a journalist for the Washington Post and "criticized the policies of Prince Mohammed".
The U.S. intelligence report stated, "We assess that Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman approved an operation in Istanbul to capture or kill Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi".
The report gave three reasons that it was believed the Saudi crown prince 'must' have approved the operation, according to BBC News.
The first reason was that he has controlled the decision-making in Saudi Arabia since 2017. Second, he had direct involvement in the operation of his advisers, and members of his security detail. Third, his "support for using violent measures to silence dissidents abroad".
When Biden was asked whether he was going to bring up Khashoggi's death during his visit to Saudi Arabia before he left to the country, he said "My views on Khashoggi have been made absolutely, positively clear and I have never been quiet about asking about human rights".
Biden said, "There are so many issues at stake that I want to make clear that we can continue to lead in the region and not create a vacuum -- a vacuum that is filled by China and or Russia, against the interest of both Israel and the United States and many other countries".
He also said that he will deliver a "direct message" to the leadership in Saudi Arabia, a "message of peace and extraordinary opportunities that a more stable and integrated region could bring to the region and quite frankly the whole world".
It is an opportunity, he said to fix the "mistake" of "walking away from our influence in the Middle East".
While the Saudi Crown Prince said on Friday during his meeting with Biden that he is "not personally responsible" for Khashoggi's death, Biden confronted Salman on the murder.
"He basically said that he was not personally responsible for it. I indicated that he was, and he said he was not personally responsible for it and he took action against those who were responsible," Biden said of the conversation he had with the crown prince.
When asked if he regretted calling the crown prince a pariah, Biden said "I don't regret anything," and added, "Do I regret it? I don’t regret anything that I said".
After being criticized for his fist bump with the crown prince after he arrived at the Al Salam Royal Palace, Biden was asked how can he be sure that another murder, such as the murder of Khashoggi does not happen again.
Biden responded with, "God love you. What a silly question. How could I possibly be sure of any of that?"
He added, however, that he made it clear that "if anything occurs like that again" there will be a "response and much more".
"Look, you've heard me say before, and when I criticize Xi Jinping, for slave labor and what they're doing…in the western mountains of China, and he said, I had no right to criticize China, and I said, look, I'm president of the United States of America," Biden stated.
"And for the United States president (to)remain silent on a clear violation of human rights, is totally inconsistent with who we are, what we are, and what we would do, what we believe."
Biden also said, "And so I'm not being silent. Can I predict anything is going to happen, let alone here, let alone any other part of the world? No. But I don't know why you're all so surprised by the way I react. No one's ever wondered. I mean what I say. The question is, I sometimes say all that I mean."