Saudi Arabia Rule Change May Bar Israeli Pilgrims from Makkah Visit

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The new rules close a loophole that allowed passage from Israel, which does not have diplomatic relations with the Saudi kingdom.

JERUSALEM –– Israeli Muslims will not be able to reach holy city of Makkah for the annual Hajj pilgrimage because of a change in passport regulations by Saudi Arabia, the Haaretz newspaper reported.

 

The new rules close a loophole that allowed passage from Israel, which does not have diplomatic relations with the Saudi kingdom, home to Islam’s two holiest shrines. Saudi authorities announced they will no longer accept temporary passports Jordan had issued to Israeli Muslims to facilitate the trip, the newspaper said.

 

An Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman said in a text message that the government is “checking the situation.” Jordanian religious authorities in Jerusalem declined to comment.

 

The development comes despite growing covert ties between Israel and Saudi Arabia, driven by a shared fear of Iran. With Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman coming under international pressure after dissident columnist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said recently the incident shouldn’t be allowed to destabilize the kingdom.

 

Palestinians Affected

According to Haaretz, the change also affects Palestinians in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza Strip who hold temporary Jordanian passports, though not those with Palestinian travel documents.

 

Salim Alashqar, a Palestinian Authority official responsible for the pilgrimage, said “thousands” of Israeli Arabs and Palestinians will be affected.

 

“We have gotten complaints from citizens who were refused visas for the hajj to enter Saudi Arabia with a temporary Jordanian passport,” Alashqar said. “We are waiting for an official response and clarification from the Saudis.” — Bloomberg

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