Bahrain to allow Israeli flights to UAE over its airspace

There was speculation that Bahrain would follow the UAE in recognizing Israel, but the country has not signaled a willingness to do so yet.

al-monitor A view from the window is seen on El Al Flight LY971 on Aug. 31, 2020, before the plane carrying a delegation from Tel Aviv to the United Arab Emirates landed at the Abu Dhabi airport.  Photo by NIR ELIAS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images.

Sep 4, 2020

Bahrain announced Thursday that it will allow all flights heading to and leaving the United Arab Emirates to use its airspace, the state-run Bahrain News Agency reported.

The decision followed a request from aviation authorities in the UAE, according to the agency. The report did not mention Israel.

The UAE and Israel are continuing to further ties, including air travel, following their agreement to normalize relations last month. 

The first cargo flight to Dubai from Israel’s flagship airline El Al will take place later this month. 

Many Arab states do not allow Israel to use their airspace.

Bahrain is an ally of the UAE and, along with Saudi Arabia and Egypt, has been part of the embargo against Qatar since 2017.

There was speculation that Bahrain would follow the UAE in recognizing Israel. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa in Manama last month. Hamad said the Gulf island still adheres to the Arab Peace Initiative. This calls for Israel to withdraw to its borders from before the 1967 war in exchange for recognition from Arab countries. 

Bahrain sponsored the Trump administration's "peace to prosperity" workshop in April and may be weighing normalization as well.

Bahrain, like Israel, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, is concerned about Iran.  Bahrain has experienced anti-government protests since the Arab Spring in 2011. Much of Bahrain’s population consists of Shiite Muslims, and the Sunni-dominated government has accused some Shiite leaders of having ties to Iran.  

Saudi Arabia takes up the majority of the flight path from Tel Aviv to airports in the UAE. Before Bahrain’s announcement, Saudi Arabia said all flights to the UAE could use its airspace. Like Bahrain, Saudi did not mention Israel by name in the announcement. 

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