EL AL plane 1 248 88.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
The leaders of the Jewish community in South Africa wrote Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu a desperate letter this week, pleading with him to prevent the cancellation of El Al Israel Airlines's Tel Aviv-Johannesburg route, the only direct flight between Israel and South Africa.
El Al reportedly intends to stop its flights to South Africa on January 31, due to a dispute with the South African government over immunity for the airline's security personnel. The dispute arose after a disgruntled former El Al security guard accused the airline of racial profiling that is illegal in South Africa.
South African Jewish Board of Deputies chairman Zev Krengel, Zionist Federation chairman Avrom Krengel, and Israel United Appeal chairman Stanley Seeff, told Netanyahu in the letter that both the South African and Israeli governments had been receptive to their concerns and open to finding a solution to the problem, but that El Al was being uncooperative.
"To our great surprise, El Al has now apparently unilaterally chosen to announce the termination of flights between the two countries," the South African leaders wrote. "We view this as an extremely unfortunate development. It can hardly be over-emphasized that the suspension of these flights, after nearly 60 years, would cause enormous distress to South African Jewry, as well as negatively impacting on Israel-South Africa relations. We hereby respectfully request, therefore, that you intervene in this matter so that appropriate steps can be taken to resolve it."
President Shimon Peres is expected to raise the matter in a meeting with South African President Jacob Zuma later this week at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
An El Al spokeswoman deferred the issue to the Israeli and South African governments.
"El Al is waiting for a diplomatic solution of the problem that we hope will be reached between the foreign ministries of the two countries," an El Al spokeswoman said. "Only the governments can solve the problem. It's totally in their hands."