President Trump is a “maverick” president and will no doubt have a lot of “firsts” as commander-in-chief. On Monday he experienced one of them, he was the first U.S. president to blaze a new trail between the Arab world and Israel. His plane is believed to be the first to fly directly from Saudi Arabia to the Jewish State of Israel.
Trump left Riyadh for Tel Aviv to begin talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in hopes of finding new ways to achieve Israeli-Palestinian peace. A spokesperson for the Civil Aviation Authority of Israel told AFP that he was not aware of any flight taking that course before. Israel does not have diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia. They have informal ties because of shared concerns about Iran and the nuclear threat they bring to the Middle-east. Egypt and Jordan are the only Arab countries that have signed peace deals with Israel. The other nations are known to be strong supporters of the Palestinian cause.
Israeli citizens can freely travel to Saudi Arabia, and thousands of Muslims attend the annual hajj pilgrimage there. But most planes, including the one carrying reporters this week, usually have stopovers in neighboring countries like Cyprus. Even though Trump’s plane flew directly, former aviation authority head, Avner Yarkoni, told AFP that there would be no reason Trump’s precedent would open the way for a new route between Israel and the Gulf region.
So the President’s office is pushing another “first.” Incidentally, he is also the first sitting president to visit the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem. Let’s hope that he is also the first president to broker real, lasting peace in that whole region.