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US threatening to bar Israeli airlines from landing at American airports

Controversy comes in response to Israeli decision to use only its own airlines to ferry citizens back to Jewish state

Illustrative image (Photo: Lasse Fuss/Wikimedia Commons)

America is threatening to impose sanctions on Israel for its alleged violation of aviation agreements by banning foreign airlines from operating rescue flights for stranded Israelis, according to several media reports.

Israeli media and CNN are reporting that the Biden administration is threatening to ban El Al and other Israeli carriers from landing in the U.S. if Israel doesn’t allow American planes to help get stranded Israeli citizens back to the Jewish state. 

Israel has placed a "hermetic" seal on the nation, shutting down Ben-Gurion International Airport to all commercial traffic in and out since Jan. 25, in order to stop the spread of COVID-19 and any mutations of the virus from slipping into the country.

But this closure has left Israelis stranded abroad and has even prevented new immigrants from making aliyah. After two weeks, Israel decided to launch "rescue" flights to get citizens back to the country but decided that only El Al would be able to provide this type of service.

The United States Department of Transportation has apparently told Israel that not allowing American carriers to help get citizens back to Israel is a violation of the two countries’ aviation agreement and could result in sanctions, according to Channel 12.

“Delta is not currently operating passenger services between Israel and the United States because of the ongoing government restrictions. Delta’s application for authority to operate flights to repatriate people in both directions was denied by the government of Israel,” a Delta Air Lines spokesman told CNN. “Delta is continuing to operate its cargo operations between the US and Israel.”

An Israeli official told CNN that the decision to bar foreign airlines from rescuing Israelis abroad was not intended to harm those airlines, but to contain the spread of coronavirus.

Nevertheless, the American position is that this gives El Al an unfair advantage and violates the 2010 Open Skies Agreement between the two countries which says that, "Each Party shall allow a fair and equal opportunity for the airlines of both Parties to compete in providing the international air transportation governed by this Agreement.”

If the U.S. bans Israeli flights other countries, including the United Kingdom, could follow suit. 

Nicole Jansezian was the news editor and senior correspondent for ALL ISRAEL NEWS.

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