Israel allows its citizens to visit Saudi Arabia

In a new sign of warming ties between Israel and Saudi Arabia, Israeli citizens will from now on officially be allowed to travel to the kingdom.

On Sunday, the Interior Minister of the Israel regime, Aryeh Deri, signed an order permitting Israelis to go to Saudi to participate in business meetings or to search for investments provided that they have an invitation from an official body and have taken care of the necessary paperwork.

The order also formally allows Muslim citizens of Israel to travel to Makkah to perform Hajj or Umrah. In the past they have usually travelled for the pilgrimages on temporary Jordanian papers.

The ministry statement said Israelis would be allowed to travel to Saudi Arabia for up to nine days, but an official later clarified that the permits would be for 90 days.

Until now, Israeli law banned citizens from traveling to many Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia, without express permission from the interior minister, and increasingly common visits by Israeli businessmen were generally held secretly.

It isn’t clear whether the new order will in fact allow Israelis to visit Saudi Arabia, however, since Riyadh generally bars Israeli nationals from the country and hasn’t made an announcement easing those restrictions.

Clandestine relations between Tel Aviv and Riyadh have increased in recent years, focused mainly on security issues, especially given the mutual enmity to Iran.

Israel has peace treaties with two Arab countries — Egypt and Jordan — but concerns over Iran’s influence in the region have led to thawing ties with some Gulf states as well.

Saudi Arabia launched a new tourism visa last year for visitors from 49 countries as part of its bid to diversify the economy and open up society. Israel is not one of the eligible countries.

However, in 2018 Saudi Arabia opened its airspace for a commercial flight to Israel with the start of a new Air India route between New Delhi and Tel Aviv, although national carrier El Al Israel Airlines may not use Saudi airspace for eastward flights.

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