The desire of Air India, the Indian airline, to begin flight routes over Saudi Arabia heading to the west and make stops in Israel has been widely reported in the current “enemy’s” media outlets. They have accused Saudi Arabia of allowing the Indians to pass by the old “enemy”, Israel.
The Saudi Civil Aviation Authority denied the allegations, and confirmed that they have not given the airline any consent.
But let’s look at the situation realistically, in terms of personal interests and international relations. The truth is there is no strong motive and no political reason that would prevent giving permission to all of the world’s airlines to cross Saudi airspace, except for Israel, Qatar and Iran.
These countries’ airlines should be prevented from flying until the time comes for reconciliation. It is hostile to exercise sovereignty, including preventing airlines from crossing airspace, for potential security issues that would result from allowing an aircraft to fly over a state’s territory.
The Israeli airline benefits the most from the possible ban, as their planes will be flying an extra 2,000 kilometers if other airlines are banned from doing soAbdulrahman al-Rashed
Our relations with the rest of the world are good, and we should allow their civilian aircrafts to pass through Saudi airspace regardless of their destination. If Indian flights are headed to Athens or New York or other destinations, and wanted to make a stop in an Israeli airport, then why should we punish them with restrictions?
For the record, Israel will be the one enjoying transporting its passengers under this ban because of the absence of other international airlines there who will not want to travel the additional distance, which is about two extra hours, if they take the complicated direct route between India and Israel.
The history of boycotting
In any case, the disputes with Israel are very clear, and countries like Qatar, who have good relations with Israel, should not tell us through their media outlets how to run our airspace. Arab countries have already discussed and made many amendments to boycotting, and differentiated between boycotts harmful to Israel, and boycotts harmful to Arabs.
The old logic of boycotting was not solely based on Israel. Those who wrote it were from the Arab left, and part of their ideology was to ban trading with the West. They banned us from importing most electronics, like Apple products, and in the past banned large companies like Xerox. The list of banned companies was made by the boycotting office in Damascus which controls trading in Gulf countries and was governed by countries that did not receive imports from the West, as they were considered the enemy.
These processes were filled with corruption as negotiations were left to governments and institutions that abused their powers often for their own benefit and financial interests. A major campaign was recently done to correct the concept of boycotting and blacklisting.
When we look at Air India’s request, we have to think about it and the situation as a whole. The Israeli airline benefits the most from the possible ban, as their planes will be flying an extra 2,000 kilometers if other airlines are banned from doing so. The other issue is that international airlines are now moving most of their activity to countries like Turkey and others.
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At the same time, political action that serves the Palestinians and the Palestinian cause loses its tools when it has no bargaining power in every crisis. Even in disputes, wars and hostilities, there is always a logical way of looking at relations and sanctions. So why do we not make decisions based on each situation according to the particular circumstances, instead of making the dogmatists and exploiters manipulate us?
This article is also available in Arabic.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today. He tweets @aalrashed.