„The ratification of this agreement will make a significant contribution to the rehabilitation of Israel`s tourism and aviation sectors. This is particularly important now that Israel is facing an economic crisis caused by the coronavirus epidemic and is trying to resume flights and tourism. However, Transport Minister Jisrael Katz – an important figure in the development of the EU agreement – is considering ensuring that foreign airlines can serve domestic flights between Tel Aviv and Eilat and set up bases in the country. On Wednesday evening, the European Parliament ratified an important air services agreement with Israel. The „open skies“ agreement is seen as an important boost to the Israeli economy, as it reduces airfares and promotes the creation of additional routes. Negotiations between the European Commission and Israel on the new air services agreement began 12 years ago. Israeli cabin crew rejected the agreement, but it was signed in 2013 under Israel`s Transport Minister Katz and came into force immediately until it was officially ratified. This comprehensive agreement will allow all EU airlines and Israel to offer direct flights between any EU and Israeli airport. In addition to opening up the market, the agreement also provides a modern framework and high standards for all aviation-related issues, such as air passenger rights, air traffic management, economic regulation, competition issues or social aspects. Like similar agreements with other EU neighbours, the gradual opening of the market to more direct flights from Israel to more destinations in Europe has led to lower prices, while reducing airfares to Israel for European travellers. An increase in tourism in both directions creates additional jobs and economic benefits on both sides. At the same time, the gradual implementation of the agreement between 2013 and 2018 has given airlines on both sides enough time to prepare for increased competition. The agreement contains a clause stressing that „the implementation of this agreement does not affect the status of territories that arrived after June 1967 under marginal and Israeli administration,“ a spokesman for the EU mission in Ramat Gan told the Times of Israel.
Israel`s ambassador, Ronny Leshno-Yaar, said the agreement showed the „resilience“ of bilateral relations. Several left-wing groups had tried to postpone the vote until the period following Israel`s apparently imminent request for annexation, but their request was rejected in a provisional technical vote and the agreement therefore moved to the plenary session of the European Parliament, where it was adopted along with similar agreements with Jordan, China and Georgia. Israeli airlines have tried to block it every time they deflate, from moans and disruptions to the flight plan at Ben Gurion International Airport to protests outside the Knesset. They said they were ruined and tens of thousands of people would lose their jobs. They mainly argued that the agreement would lead to unfair competition, particularly because of its small size and low expenses, including within the security committee.