Do We Allow Air India’s Request?

Do We Allow Air India’s Request?

Friday, 9 February, 2018 - 07:45
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad.
Air India’s request to operate flights headed to the West to fly over Saudi Arabia and have a layover in Israel has been fodder for “enemy” media. The media accused Saudi Arabia of allowing the Indians to cross over to the old “enemy” Israel. The concerned side, the Saudi General Authority of Civil Aviation, denied the claims and said that it has not approved the decision.

Let us observe the situation with some pragmatism from the perspective of international interests and relations. The truth is, there is no strong motivation or political reasoning that would prevent all airlines from around the world, except those from Israel, Qatar and Iran, to fly over Saudi Arabia. The carriers of these countries should be barred from flying over the Kingdom until the dispute with them is resolved. Preserving sovereignty rights includes barring travel through an airspace or averting other forms of potential security disputes that may result from allowing an airline to travel over a country.

Our ties with the rest of the countries of the world are good and their civil airlines should be allowed to fly over Saudi Arabia regardless of their destination. If Indian trips were headed to Athens, New York or elsewhere and wanted to stop at an Israeli airport, then why should we punish them with a ban? Israel, not another airline, will meanwhile be forced to shoulder the burden of the added two-hour flight time to take the convoluted route between India and Israel should the airspace ban be imposed..

At any rate, the dispute with Israel is very clear. A country, such as Qatar, which enjoys almost full ties with Israel, should not be dictating to us, through its propaganda machine, how to manage our airspace or territorial waters.

Arab countries have debated at length over the concept of boycott and their concerned institutions have agreed to distinguish between a boycott that harms Israel and a boycott that harms the Arabs. The old concept of a boycott is not limited to besieging Israel. Those who spoke of it were of the Arab left and they also partly advocated banning trade with the West. They had prevented us from importing a majority of electronics, such as Apple and Xerox products. The banned list was compiled by the boycott office in Damascus, which had control over trade in the Gulf. Corruption was rife in those procedures whereby negotiations in the past were limited to governments and institutions that had often abused their power for their own interests. A major campaign was recently successful in redefining the concepts of a boycott and refining blacklists.

When assessing Air India’s request, we should look at the issue as a whole. The Israeli carrier will benefit from the situation and the boycott, even if it will have to fly an additional 2,000 kilometers. No other international airline is willing to go the extra distance. In addition, political work that serves the Palestinians and their cause, loses its tools when it does not have anything to compromise in the crisis. Amid the disputes, wars and enmities, a certain logic always determines how relations and punishments should transpire. Why shouldn’t we therefore tackle each case separately instead of allowing the dogmatic and spiteful sides manipulate us?

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