Flight Fiasco’s Fix Fuels Friends’ Feud over Free and Fair Fight
The US Department of Transportation on Saturday filed an official complaint with Israel’s Transportation Ministry, objecting to Jerusalem’s recent policy of allowing only its El Al airline to operate emergency flights between the two countries. Representatives from Israel’s Airports Authority, National Security Council and Transportation Ministry will meet later Sunday to discuss Washington’s grievance and try to defuse the growing tension, which has been brewing under the surface for the past two weeks. In late January, Israel’s government took the unprecedented step of completely shuttering its lone international airport, banning anyone from entering or leaving the country due to coronavirus concerns. After several days, an exemptions committee was formed, which was authorized to review and allow exceptions in only extreme cases, such as medical emergencies. But exempted passengers were allowed to enter or leave Israel only via special flights operated solely by Israel’s national carrier, a move Washington claims, on behalf of United Airlines and Delta Airlines, discriminates against American companies and violates US-Israel bilateral agreements. Last week, three fully booked flights made the round trip from Tel Aviv’s Ben-Gurion International Airport to New York’s JFK International Airport, and several more are expected to happen this week as thousands of Israelis stranded abroad, and thousands of Americans stuck in Israel, hope to return home.