El Al, Israel's National Airline,
By: Eli Bardenstein Translated from Maariv (Israel).
For the first time since relations between Israel and Egypt were established, Israel's national airline, El Al, plans to suspend the Tel Aviv-Cairo line due to its economic infeasibility and the high security costs.
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Israeli airline El Al has announced that it's halting its flights to Cairo due to decreasing passengers and high security expenses, reports Eli Bardenstein. The Israeli foreign ministry warns that once stopped, it will be impossible to restore the route in view of the hostility of the Egyptian public toward Israel.Publisher: Maariv (Israel)
Israeli national airline El Al to halt flights to Cairo
Author: Eli Bardenstein
First Published: September 16, 2012
Posted on: September 19 2012
Translated by: Al-Monitor
In a letter to Israel's Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, El Al Airlines CEO Eliezer Shkedi writes: "Operating the flight route to Cairo and maintaining the infrastructure required to that end involve the allocation of vast operational and security resources and incur heavy financial expenditures amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars annually. In the absence of commercial justification and in light of the high economic cost of operating this line, El Al cannot possibly go on bearing these heavy expenses and it therefore intends to stop operating the flight route to Cairo right away."
Since the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty was signed [in 1979], El Al has regularly flown between Tel Aviv and Cairo — usually once a week. Following the ousting of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak about a year and a half ago, a decision was made by El Al Airlines to operate the route under a limited schedule, in line with commercial demand and in compliance with the request of the Israeli government. According to Shkedi, outgoing and incoming flights on the route are nearly empty.
Shkedi notes that if the foreign ministry believes that the Tel Aviv-Cairo line should be maintained, it has to name the governmental body that will foot the bill and pay for the heavy costs involved in operating the flight line. "Under the current circumstances and given the sensitive security situation in Egypt, El Al will have to make special arrangements [to keep the route operational], which would entail considerable additional costs," reads the letter.
The decision has political implications, in particular with respect to Egypt, as Israel's relations with Cairo have become ever more sensitive since Mohammed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood representative, has risen to power. It is assessed that once El Al halts the flights to Cairo, it will be practically impossible to renew flights on the Tel Aviv-Cairo route at any time in the future due to hostile public opinion in Egypt. "Any element of normalization in the relations between the two countries that is suspended will never again be revived," said a foreign-ministry source.
Thus, for instance, since the evacuation of the Israeli embassy in Cairo following the mob assault on the embassy building about a year ago [September 9, 2011], no alternative building could be found for the embassy, as no local property owner is willing to rent offices to Israel for the purpose of operating its embassy in the Egyptian capital.
Yet, the tense situation notwithstanding, Minister Liberman maintains that now in particular, after over 30 years of relations that were focused on the security level alone, it's time to expand and intensify cooperation between Israel and Egypt. Liberman even extended an invitation to the Egyptian Foreign Ministry's director-general to visit Israel. However, so far, there has been no positive response on the part of the Egyptians.
El Al declined comment on the issue; at the same time, it has been confirmed by the foreign ministry that the letter was indeed received and that the issue is under consideration.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently issued a severe statement noting his concern that Egypt under the Muslim Brotherhood was not heading toward democracy. In meetings with European foreign ministers, Netanyahu said that the new regime in Egypt would be tested, like other newly established regimes in the region, not by holding popular elections the first time, but rather by the second electoral campaign and the ones following it. According to Netanyahu, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt aspires to preserve its dominance in a manner that is inconsistent with the democratic principles of checks and balances.
In the course of a recent meeting with European officials, Prime Minister Netanyahu's political adviser, Ron Dermer, said that action should be taken to prevent a situation where no opposition would be allowed to exist in Egypt. With reference to the issue, Netanyahu pointed out among other events the jailing of journalists in Egypt and the takeover of the Egyptian media by President Morsi.
The European officials noted that Egypt was at an interim phase between one regime and another and that efforts were being made to formulate a constitution and consolidate the makeup of the parliament. According to the Europeans, President Morsi is projecting an aura of stability.
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