The prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to make an official state visit to Italy later this week, only he might not be able to make the trip, unless he finds a private company to fly him or flies commercial. This is because El Al, Israel’s national air carrier, cannot find a pilot who will agree to fly the plane Netanyahu and his wife Sara use for their trip.
And this news comes at a time when Israeli Air Force reserve pilots are threatening to “strike” and refuse to show up for a scheduled training exercise on Wednesday. But that is for political reasons – a protest against Netanyahu’s government. Like the IAF pilots, the El Al pilots don’t want to be Netanyahu’s pilot for political reasons.
The situation is so embarrassing that Israel’s Minister of Transportation was forced to open a tender for pilots outside of El Al to fly the plane. And this would be embarrassing since it is standard for the leader of a nation to fly on his country’s national carrier, or be flown in a military plane.
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El Al released a statement on the matter saying, “The issue of staffing the Prime Minister’s flight has not yet been concluded, due, among other things, to the paucity of qualified pilots in the 777 fleet. We are working to staff this flight and other flights that have not yet been staffed, in accordance with the company’s procedures, as we have done countless times in the past.”
The Boeing 777 has already been phased out by El Al in favor of the new Bowing “Dreamliner” and El Al’s qualified pilots are need for that plane’s flights.
Massive protests have rocked Israel over the past two months, ever since Justice Minister Yariv Levin revealed the government’s plans to alter the nature of Israel’s judicial system. The government’s judicial reform plan would greatly curtail the power of Israel’s Supreme Court to nullify legislation passed by the Knesset and also limit the authority of Israel’s attorney general. The opposition charges this would harm Israel’s democracy, eroding foreign confidence in the country and hurting its economy. And this is why the country is now on the brink of what some are describing as the biggest societal clash in Israel’s history.