TEL AVIV (Oct. 3)
Israel’s long-standing request for direct immigrant flights from Moscow to Tel Aviv was finally realized Wednesday, without fanfare and in an atmosphere of recrimination over the performance of the new air carrier created for the task.
Moreover, it appeared that direct flights are not all that essential to Soviet aliyah, according to sources at El Al, the Israeli national airline, which had no part in what is being called “The Aerolicht Fiasco.”
Aerolicht is a new joint venture between the Soviet state airline Aeroflot and Ya’acov Nimrodi, an Israeli businessman. Its inaugural flight from Moscow was due Tuesday at Ben-Gurion Airport with 300 to 400 immigrants, whom the news media and assorted VIPs were waiting to greet.
It failed to arrive, having returned to Moscow after Turkey refused to grant the plane passage through its airspace.
Moreover, the plane carried only eight olim. They finally landed Wednesday at Ben-Gurion on Aerolicht’s second flight, which was primarily a cargo run.
Airport Authority sources said the plane flew via Greek airspace. Aerolicht’s Israeli agent, Menachem Laufer, claimed the Turks had changed their mind and allowed the plane through.
Laufer suggested that Tuesday’s flight was turned back because of Arab pressure on Ankara.
But Jewish Agency officials blamed Nimrodi. In his haste to reap monopoly benefits before independent Soviet republics organize airlines of their own, he launched his service without proper coordination with the Jewish Agency and the Israeli Foreign Ministry, they charged.