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Netanyahu thanks Saudis for kind treatment of Israelis who made emergency landing

 September 1, 2023

An Air Seychelles plane destined for Israel suddenly encountered electrical difficulties over the Red Sea, and it was forced to land at the King Abdulaziz International Airport in Saudi Arabia.

There were 128 Israeli passengers onboard, creating a potential international predicament, as Israeli citizens are barred from entering Saudi Arabian territory due to the absence of formal diplomatic relations, as the Daily Wire reported.

From Tarmac Tensions to Unexpected Hospitality

Many on the flight, like Sharon Licht-Patren, experienced initial anxiety, uncertain about their fate in a nation they were prohibited from visiting.

Licht-Patren stated, "When they announced on the flight that we were landing in Saudi Arabia, it was really scary. It wasn't clear what would happen."

However, the crew ensured communication with the Israeli Foreign Ministry throughout their time on the ground. While on the tarmac, passengers experienced several hours of power outages.

The passengers were surprised when Saudi officials escorted them to an airport hotel. A replacement aircraft, sent from Dubai, ensured they were safely transported to Israel the next day.

A passenger, Chen Giladi, told Ynet, "They took us in buses to a lovely hotel at the terminal and they treated us very well. From the moment we disembarked, they greeted us with "shalom" in Hebrew and made us feel good. They are very nice here."

Israel and Saudi Arabia: A Budding Relationship?

This unlikely occurrence allowed Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu to acknowledge the gestures and express gratitude towards the Saudi government for their considerate treatment of Israeli passengers.

"I greatly appreciate the warm attitude of the Saudi authorities toward the Israeli passengers whose flight was in distress," he said.

Netanyahu's commendation, captured in a video message, signifies a potential shift towards friendlier interactions between the two Middle Eastern powers.

Although Saudi Arabia didn't formalize ties with Israel during the 2020 Abraham Accords initiative led by former President Donald Trump's administration, the two nations have been exploring informal cooperation.

Their mutual apprehensions about Iran's regional influence serve as a connecting point. The Wall Street Journal recently hinted at Saudi Arabia's consideration to reinitiate aid to the Palestinian Authority, a precursor to possibly recognizing Israel officially.

Saudi Arabia's past philanthropy towards Palestinian causes halted in 2016 amidst concerns over misuse and mismanagement of funds.

The speculated revival of this aid is contingent upon the Palestinian Authority addressing militancy and disturbances in areas like Judea and Samaria, which could substantially influence the kingdom's evolving dynamic with Israel.

Netanyahu has consistently expressed optimism about strengthening ties with Saudi Arabia. This collaboration could validate Israel's existence in the predominantly Muslim area, potentially setting a precedent for partnerships with other influential countries.

The Political Landscape

Conservative commentator Ben Shapiro suggested that Saudi Arabia is willing to recognize Israel. However, the Biden administration has been nudging the Saudis in a cautious direction, implying that any recognition should be paired with Israeli concessions to the Palestinians.

The recent U.S.-Iran deal, which led to the liberation of five American citizens from Iranian prisons in exchange for a notable easing of financial sanctions, appears to encourage factions adverse to Israel in an indirect way. Israel, for its part, has faced an unprecedented surge in attacks, with Netanyahu attributing this spike in violence to Iran.