In another sign of rapidly warming ties between Arab gulf countries and Israel, Oman has announced it is opening its airspace to Israeli carriers for the first time in history.
It comes on the heels of Saudi Arabia allowing Israeli airplanes to also traverse its airspace, seen as a huge step in the normalization of relations process still underway, based on the Trump administration's 'Abraham Accords'. Israeli airlines can now significantly shorten travel eastbound to places like India and China.
For months, the White House has been working behind the scenes with the Omani government to improve economic and diplomatic relations with Israel. This included meetings going back to November between White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan, Secretary of State Tony Blinken and Omani Foreign Minister Sayyid Badr al-Busaidi.
The prior Omani government had pledged to open its airspace years ago, but this was halted. "In 2018, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Oman and got a commitment from then-Sultan Qaboos to allow Israeli airlines to use Omani airspace," Axios writes. "But after Qaboos died, current Sultan Haitham bin Tariq rolled back the decision."
Last week, Bloomberg reported that Israel’s new government under Benjamin Netanyahu has stepped up efforts to cement stronger military and intelligence cooperation between Saudi Arabia (and by extension the rest of the Gulf Cooperation Council/GCC) and Israel.
While historically the Saudis have never recognized the 'Jewish state' - both have long secretly cooperated in places like Syria and Yemen, in what they see as 'counter-Iran' operations.
Israel normalized relations with the UAE and Bahrain in 2020 under the Abraham Accords, and is hoping Saudi Arabia will be next. However, this would likely be met with fierce anger among the Saudi public, and particularly among the powerful Sunni clerical establishment.