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Cabinet Takes Up Charter Flight Controversy

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The controversial issue of charter flights to Israel came up at yesterday’s Cabinet meeting and was referred to the ministerial economic committee for resolution. Failing a decision there, it will come before the full Cabinet for a final vote–something the Cabinet clearly would like to avoid,

The government is divided on the issue. Minister of Tourism Moshe Kol wants the ban on charter flights lifted in order to stimulate Israel’s sagging tourist industry, But Transport Minister Gad Yaacobi, strongly backed by Israel’s national air carrier, El Al, insists that the ban be maintained except, as is now the case, for religious pilgrims and the nationals of Scandinavian countries. Last week Yaacobi flatly rejected recommendations by an American firm of experts commissioned by Kol that the charter ban be rescinded to stimulate tourist traffic.

U.S. JEWISH LEADERS URGE CHARTER FLIGHTS

The dispute was enlivened by the adoption of a resolution at the closing session of the Jewish Agency’s fourth annual Assembly here last Thursday supporting charter flights. The resolution, which came as a surprise, was proposed by an American delegate, Merrill Hassenfeld of Rhode island, and his wife, Sylvia, who is national president of the United Jewish Appeal’s women’s division.

In an interview with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Mrs, Hassenfeld said that in her UJA experience she encountered many women who would dearly love to visit Israel annually but simply could not afford it, She said her concern was not merely fund-raising–although, she maintained, people who visited Israel invariably found themselves moved to give more–but more important, that as many Jews as possible should be encouraged to visit Israel and thereby identify with it in these troubled times.

Merrill Hassenfeld said EL AL’s concern for its profitability was narrow-minded. He said that in the broader perspective of Israel’s national interest, it was vitally important for as many Jews as possible to be able to visit Israel, especially Jewish youth, The Hassenfelds said they hoped the top UJA leadership would pursue the subject with Israeli representatives until a solution was found.

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