According to a senior Saudi journalist, Riyadh should approve Air India’s request to use its airspace when flying to and from Tel Aviv. He explained that Israel’s national air carrier actually benefits from Saudi Arabia rejecting the request.

Air India plane

Air India plane

A senior Saudi journalist has joined the dispute over whether Riyadh should allow Air India planes flying to and from Israel to enter its airspace. In an op-ed on Friday, Abdulrahman Al-Rashed urged the kingdom to approve Air India’s request.

Al-Rashed, the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television and the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, wrote that Saudi Arabia should be looking at the matter in a pragmatic manner and thinking about its international interests. “The truth is, there is no strong motivation or political reasoning that would prevent all airlines from around the world, except those from Israel, Qatar and Iran, to fly over Saudi Arabia,” he wrote in the op-ed, which was featured on Asharq Al-Awsat’s English site.

According to Al-Rashed, Riyadh should bar Iranian, Israeli and Qatari airlines from using its airspace “until the dispute with them is resolved” but allow other air carriers to fly above Saudi Arabia without any restrictions. “Our ties with the rest of the countries of the world are good and their civil airlines should be allowed to fly over Saudi Arabia regardless of their destination,” he explained.

“If Indian trips were headed to Athens, New York or elsewhere and wanted to stop at an Israeli airport, then why should we punish them with a ban?” he wrote. “The dispute with Israel is very clear. A country, such as Qatar, which enjoys almost full ties with Israel, should not be dictating to us, through its propaganda machine, how to manage our airspace or territorial waters.”

Al-Rashed then stressed that it is important to differentiate between a boycott that harms Israelis and a boycott that harms Arabs. According to him, “the Israeli carrier,” in an apparent reference to El Al, would benefit from the situation if Riyadh rejects Air India’s request.

Earlier this week, it was reported that Saudi Arabia approved the request. However, a few hours later, the Saudi General Authority of Civil Aviation dismissed the reports.