New York – The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has condemned five European states, Britain, Germany, Italy, Portugal and Spain, for banning stop-over landings for El Al flights carrying military equipment destined for the Israel Defense forces (IDF). All five states have been involved in the effort to expand the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). El Al’s 747 cargo planes frequently carry crucial military supplies to Israel, but European policy forces the planes to carry barely half of their 90-ton capacity because of their inability to refuel en route (Jerusalem Post, September 4).
Describing this development as “a substantial blow to state defense,” Captain Itai Regev, the chairman of El Al’s pilots union, wrote to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and the Defense, Finance and Tourism Ministries disclosing these developments, noting that, “As a result, cargo planes are taking off from the U.S. with much lighter weight, and are reaching Israel with significantly fewer munitions than needed” (Haaretz, September 4). Regev also explained in an interview that “Israel has recently decided to allow government employees to fly on Italy’s national carrier, Alitalia, rather than with El Al. Yet at the same time, Italy and others are restricting us, causing us to fly with fewer munitions than we need” (Israel National News, September 5).
ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said, “The decision by these five European states to ban El-Al flights refueling if they are carrying military equipment is nothing other than a cowardly, unprincipled act of appeasement to Israel’s enemies. These European countries all maintain diplomatic relations with Israel. All acknowledged that in the recent Lebanon war, Israel had been attacked. All claim in the abstract that Israel has a right to self-defense. Yet, in practice, they are hampering Israel’s ability to be speedily rearmed during a period of tension, continuing hostilities and in the aftermath of a major war. This decision is a victory for the terrorists who attacked Israel from Lebanon and Gaza and kidnapped Israeli soldiers. It shows that these governments are trying to appease the Arab public that have been inflamed by propaganda against Israel, especially during the recent war.
“The ZOA urges the Bush Administration to take up the matter with the governments of the five European states and to make it clear that Israel is a valued ally in the war on radical Islam who should not be hampered or disadvantaged. President Bush should be deeply concerned that a US ally fighting some of the same terrorist movements that are on the side of America’s enemies is being hampered in conducting its own counter-terrorist operations and the signal this sends to the wider world about the West’s lack of resolve.