Middle East

Trump's flight from Saudi Arabia to Israel possibly first direct flight between countries

President Donald Trump's trip to Israel on Monday may have already made history even before Air Force One touched down in Tel Aviv. 

Trump took a direct flight from Riyadh to Tel Aviv, believed to be the first direct flight between Saudi Arabia and Israel. The two countries do not have diplomatic relations and Saudi Arabia does not recognize Israel as a state. 

Trump arrived at Ben-Gurion International Airport to start the second leg of his first foreign trip since taking office. Trump will also be visiting the Palestinian territories during his two-day trip in Israel.  

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An Israel Airport Authority spokesman said he was not aware of any direct flights ever having landed in Israel from the kingdom. There are no direct flights between the two countries and flights from either country bypass the other's airspace.

The only direct flights from Israel to Arab states are to Egypt and Jordan, both of which signed peace treaties with Israel.

While neither country is in a position to dictate to Trump where to fly, his arrival nonetheless reflects the warming relationship between Saudi Arabia and Israel. The two countries have reportedly developed covert ties based on their shared concerns over Iran's growing regional influence. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu frequently boasts of his behind-the-scenes cooperation with moderate Sunni countries that are believed to include Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu greeted Trump and First Lady Melania Trump when they arrived in Tel Aviv. Netanyahu said in a speech that he hopes "that one day an Israeli prime minister will be able to fly from Tel Aviv to Riyadh."

Trump highlighted the "rare opportunity" he has to work with leaders in the region to ease tensions that have mounted over the years. 

"We have a rare opportunity to bring stability and peace in this region, defeat terror and create a future of peace," Trump said shortly after his arrival. 

"We can only get there by working together – there is no other way," he said. 

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Trump is expected to make a push to relaunch long-stalled peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians during his visit. He is slated to meet separately with Netanyahu in Jerusalem and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem.

Trump said in March that peace between the two states is only possible with "two willing parties." 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.