Ben-Gurion Airport strike September 13, 2010 Nir Kafri
Delayed passengers at Ben-Gurion Airport, September 13, 2010. Photo by Nir Kafri
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After people who live under the flight paths to and from Ben-Gurion International Airport won compensation for the night flights during the airport's multiyear renovation, somebody was obviously going to have to pay. Not surprisingly, that somebody just might be travelers and airlines.

In a letter to Israel Airports Authority chairman Ovadia Eli, Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz committed to let the IAA cover the cost of the damages "by raising fees or in any other way." That letter paved the way to end the strike over pension issues that IAA workers launched two days ago, disrupting the airport's operations.

"We will work to ensure that the IAA can cover the expenses brought on by the ruling over financial compensation for residents who sued based on clause 197 in the Planning and Building Law, whether that means by raising fees or in any other way," the letter stated.

Area residents may receive as much as NIS 5 billion, if not more, for damage to the value of their homes.

The IAA declined to comment yesterday.

Airline industry sources said the end of the strike is likely to speed payment of the court-ordered compensation.

Attorney Avner Yarkoni, who represents the residents, said, "If it is true that the Finance Ministry will be the one bearing the compensation costs imposed on the IAA, as was published, then the end of the strike may also finally lead to the end of the legal saga between the area residents and the IAA."

Attorney Moshe Raz-Cohen, who also represents some of the residents, cautioned the IAA against transferring money to a new fund meant to insure the employees' pensions, which he said could be considered giving preference to some creditors over others.

The IAA will be required to pay the compensation shortly, "and until then, it should avoid transferring money to other external funds, particularly if this will impede carrying out the ruling. This would be considered illegal concealment of assets," he said.

Meanwhile, the IAA published an announcement yesterday contradicting the Histadrut labor federation's announcement about the agreement ending the strike.

"Contrary to the announcements, at no point during the negotiations between the workers, the Transportation Ministry, the Finance Ministry and the IAA's management was responsibility for transferring the worker's pension money placed on IAA chairman Ovadia Eli," it said.

Instead, the sides agreed that the matter would be decided by the IAA's executive council, the IAA stated.