El Al warns security cuts will disrupt winter schedule

El Al winter flights will be disrupted because of a threat by the ministry of foreign affairs to stop the supply of guards at overseas airports.

El Al is heading overseas in a bid to recruit more possible candidates. (photo credit: Courtesy)
El Al is heading overseas in a bid to recruit more possible candidates.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
TEL AVIV (Tribune News Service) -- The Ministry of Foreign Affairs' threat to stop employing flight security workers in January 2019 is likely to be carried out. A letter sent by El Al Israel Airlines Ltd. (TASE: ELAL) head of security Moti Ilani to the CEOs of Israeli airlines El Al, Israir Airlines and Tourism Ltd., Arkia Airlines Ltd., Sun d'Or, and Ayit Aviation and Tourism states that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' security department can be prepared with security guard teams at overseas airports only until December 31, 2018. Flights on winter schedules will therefore not necessarily take place.
"El Al's security department has received the flight plans of all the airlines for the winter of 2018-2019 under the joint procedure shared by the Israel Civil Aviation Authority, the airlines, the Israel Security Agency (ISA), and El Al security," Ilani writes. "In view of the announcement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs director general that aviation security workers will be employed only until the end of 2018, I hereby notify you that El Al's security department will handle requested flights and personnel planning for flights only until December 31, 2018."
This letter follows a letter by Ministry of Foreign Affairs director general Yuval Rotem first published in "Globes" notifying National Security Council deputy head Eytan Ben-David (now National Security Council head) that employment of 1,200 flight workers in security for Israeli airlines will be terminated on January 1, 2019. This means that the Israeli airlines will be unable to fly to Israel from international airports.
The security procedures for airlines at overseas airports were set by the ISA. In view of the security events that have occurred in recent years, these demands have become more exacting and have increased the personnel requirements. The agency that carries out the ISA's instructions is the El Al security department, which is responsible for the flight security of all of the Israeli airlines. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs supplies most of the money to pay the security staff. These costs totaled NIS 825 million in 2017, NIS 75 million more than in 2016, as a result of increased aviation activity and activity at new destinations.
Rotem issued a similar warning before the current summer season, when the crisis was solved by the Ministry of Finance adding jobs for security workers. Rotem warned that the 1,200 aviation security workers would be employed only until December 31, 2018 and also informed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is acting Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Following Rotem's letter, Eli Defes, chairperson of El Al's board of directors, sent Ben-David a letter warning, "Without these workers, the flight security apparatus cannot exist… Any solution requires thorough consideration and a great deal of difficult preparation, which is likely to vary from one country to another." Defes is referring, for example, to the employment of flight security workers through outsourcing or directly in the airlines. This means that consular restrictions are liable to apply to those workers (in moving them from one country to another, for example). Problems in implementing local laws are also liable to arise, such as a ban on employment discrimination on the basis of ethnic origin. As of now, according to the rules set by the ISA, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs employs only Jews in aviation security for the Israeli airlines.
Are the Israeli airlines entitled to feel deprived because foreign airlines are prospering in Israel and receiving hundreds of thousands of euros in grants for each route? The answer is yes. This matter must be solved soon, and the question arises of whether the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' announcement was designed to eventually increase the budget and the number of security jobs, or constitute a genuine threat.