Air India
Air India Source: Star Alliance

Reports have circulated in international media, suggesting that Saudi Arabia has granted permission for Air India to fly through the kingdom's airspace to Israel.

The kingdom has had an airspace ban on flights headed to Tel Aviv for some 70 years, meaning such a move would mark a dramatic shift in official policy. Israeli media reported that Riyadh had granted the permission.

However, according to Reuters, a spokesperson for the General Authority of Civil Aviation has denied that any such permission was given.

Air India does not currently fly to Israel, but attempted to start flights last year as well. However, the issue of using Saudi airspace stopped the airline from moving forward with the flights.

Some Saudis think the kingdom should allow the flights

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed, a columnist for Saudi-owned Arab News, argued that the ban on flights to and from Israel should remain in place, along with those on Iran and Qatar.

"The ban on the flights of these countries should remain in place until the time comes and they are reconciled," Al-Rashed wrote in a Friday column.

However, he questioned whether it was necessary to block aircraft from other friendly nations from using its airspace to arrive in Tel Aviv.

"Our relations with the countries of the rest of the world are good, and we are supposed to allow their civilian aircraft to pass through Saudi airspace, regardless of their destination," he wrote.

"So if the Indian flights were going to Athens or New York or other destinations and wanted to stop at an Israeli airport, why punish them with a ban?"

Saudi Arabia has "no relations" with Israel

Some analysts and media reports have suggested that ties between Saudi Arabia and Israel are warming up, pointing to their shared concern over Iran's influence in the Middle East. However, Saudi Arabia has consistently denied such claims.

"There are no relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel. There is the Arab peace initiative that constitutes the road map to reach peace and to establish normal relations between Israel and the Arab states," Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir said in November.

"Saudi Arabia is committed to the Arab peace initiative. When there will be peace, there will be normal relations between Israel and all the Arab states," he added.

King Salman also reiterated the kingdom's stance toward Israeli following U.S. President Donald Trump's controversial decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

The king said Trump's declaration "represents an extreme bias against the rights of the Palestinian people in Jerusalem that have been guaranteed by international resolutions," according to Al Jazeera.

"I repeat the Kingdom's condemnation and strong regret over the US decision on Jerusalem, for its relinquishment of the historic rights of the Palestinian people in Jerusalem," he added.