The Finance Ministry and El Al reached an agreement on Monday evening, ending
the Israeli air carriers strike in its second day.
meetings between the sides, the Finance Ministry agreed to raise its
participation in airline security costs from 70 to 97.5 percent. El Al, which
said that security cost it NIS 130 million each year, would be left paying about
NIS 12.5m., according to Treasury figures.
“In ending the crisis the
government has finally come to its senses and understood that it is in the
national interest for the companies and their employees to be allowed to survive
in the marketplace and receive fair treatment,” said Histadrut labor federation
chairman Ofer Eini.
“It’s a shame it had to take a strike and protests
and thousands of families had to be affected with fear and uncertainty in order
to reach this conclusion, which we could have reached in practical
The ministry announced the deal an hour-and-a-half before
the National Labor Court was set to rule on whether the strike – and the
Histadrut’s order to shut down the airport starting Tuesday at 5 a.m. – could
The Manufacturer’s Association of Israel had issued an
injunction to end the strike at the National Labor Court late Sunday
“The court must issue an order to employees not to disrupt work
and to halt this strike immediately,” the association said. “The strike severely
disrupts industry, which is reliant on export and import.”
In its own
filing on the matter, the Histadrut excoriated the government’s Sunday decision
to pass the Open Skies agreement, saying the cabinet had not properly discussed
the deal, which the union claimed would lead to the collapse of Israel’s airline
“The Histadrut regrets the discomfort caused to the plaintiff,
as well as, primarily, the Israeli public and foreign tourists,” the labor union
said. “However, this is a fight for existence, a war of necessity.”
Histadrut’s exceptions committee approved two El Al flights Monday for
humanitarian reasons, one from Paris carrying the bodies of a rabbi and the
president of the deaf association for burial in Israel, and another from Berlin carrying employees of a pharmaceutical company
so they could return to work manufacturing medication. On Sunday, it also
approved three flights for similar extenuating circumstances.
security agreement followed a day of political volleys as the Knesset reconvened
for its summer session, and politicians came out in full force over the aviation
Finance Minister Yair Lapid slammed the strike, saying it was
“unnecessary from the beginning and it is still necessary now.”
Skies is a done deal,” he said. “This is a good and appropriate agreement for
the citizens of Israel, Israel’s economy and Israel’s tourism. The agreement
will liberalize the aviation market in Israel, introducing more competition over
the course of five years.”
Opposition leader Shelly Yacimovich backed the
airlines, saying it was wrong to set Israeli companies against international
competition “with their hands tied.”
El Al CEO Eliezer Shkedi said the
company respected the Israeli government and its decision to pass the agreement,
but demanded that it deal with issues that “will allow fair and equal
competition, chief among them the state’s full participation in the security
expenditures of Israeli airlines.”
Lapid acknowledged that Israeli
airlines face unique problems in paying for security, and ordered the Finance
Ministry staff to search for solutions.
Labor faction leader MK Isaac
Herzog accused Transportation Minister Israel Katz of not negotiating the Open
Skies agreement transparently, saying he “tricked” the Knesset and the people of
“Ladies and gentlemen, airlines are not cellular companies,” he
added, referring to the popular recent government reforms that successfully
brought down mobile carrier prices.
On Sunday the Tourism Ministry said
the Open Skies agreement would result in “an increase of 250,000 tourists from
Europe during the first year of its operation. This means the creation of nearly
10,000 new jobs, a significant majority of them in the periphery.”
MK Eitan Cabel invoked Ricki Cohen, the fictional archetypal middle class
Israeli woman Lapid famously said he was fighting for at the
“It is important for Ricki Cohen from Hadera to be able to get
a cheap ticket for a vacation abroad, but it’s more important that Yossi Cohen,
the El Al porter, has a job tomorrow,” Cabel said.
While competition is
important, he continued, “it is absolutely unacceptable that the workers should
be the ones that pay the price, even if the idea surrounding the reform is
He also noted that the skirmish was the opening salvo in the
budget battle, in which the Histadrut has already opposed attempts to cut wages
in collective agreements.
Meanwhile, the National Labor Court late on
Monday night struck the case from its docket upon receiving word from the
disputants that the issue was settled.
The court complimented the parties
on arriving “peacefully at a solution to the dispute between them.” It also gave
the agreement the legal status of a final judgment, formally binding on both
sides.Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.