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    Air India planes are parked on the tarmac at the Terminal 3 of Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi, India, Friday, May 18, 2012

    El Al Fumes as Air India Sends World’s First Flight to Israel over Saudi Arabia

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    Following a 70-year ban, Saudi Arabia allowed an Israel-bound Indian commercial jet to fly over its airspace, prompting cries of discrimination by El Al, Israel’s national airline.

    Thursday, Air India flight AI139, from New Delhi to Tel Aviv, became the first commercial aircraft en route to Israel to fly over Saudi Arabia since the former's foundation in 1948. According to a March 7 statement by the airline, Saudi Arabia gave Air India the necessary approval for the route, drastically decreasing travel time for India-Israel direct flights.

    This comes after the historic January meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi, the first visit to New Delhi by an Israeli prime minister in 15 years. 

    Despite the flight being picked up by aircraft trackers, Riyadh has yet to comment on the new route since Air India's March statement.

    Israeli national airline El Al has fired back at Saudi Arabia and even its own government, claiming the €750,000 ($926,000) route grant given to India by the Israeli Ministry of Tourism puts them at a disadvantage.

    "Such approval, which was granted by the state of Israel, gives a significant and unfair advantage to a foreign airline and is contrary to any principle of reciprocity in the world of international aviation," said El Al in a statement.

    The airline has since hired the International Air Transport Association lobby group to assist with its efforts to receive the same treatment as Air India, according to the Jerusalem Post. 

    Israel and Saudi Arabia do not have any permanent diplomatic relations. As a charter member of the Arab League, Saudi Arabia voted against the UN partitioning of Palestine in 1947 and sent troops to fight with other Arab nations against Israel in several major wars, although today it maintains a position of favoring peace and a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine, according to the pre-1967 borders, according to the kingdom's Ministry of Foreign Affairs website.

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    Tags:
    Air India, Narendra Modi, Benjamin Netanyahu, Netanyahu, Saudi Arabia, India, New Delhi, Tel Aviv, Israel
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