Tel Aviv-Kiryat Shmona Flights Are Still for Jewish Passengers Only

Despite Transport Ministry's promise to install X-ray scanners, Arabs still barred from the domestic flights.

Despite promises made by the Transportation Ministry to install temporary X-ray scanning machines in the Kiryat Shmona airport a month ago, Israeli Arabs and Arab tourists are still barred from flights between Tel Aviv and the northern city.

The Transportation Ministry, acting on instruction from the Shin Bet security service, had decided that Arabs would not be allowed on domestic flights between the north and Tel Aviv, following a financial dispute that prevented the use of luggage-scanning machines in airports in the north. An investigation by Haaretz revealed that there was a policy of allowing only Jewish passengers onto these flights since March.

The Transportation Ministry said June 15 it would install temporary X-ray scanning machines in the Kiryat Shmona airport, in an effort to calm public protests over its policy of barring Arabs.

Due to a bureaucratic problem in the Kiryat Shmona terminal, Udi Tamir, owner of Tamir Airways, announced on Tuesday that the company would discontinue its flights between Kiryat Shmona and Tel Aviv in a week.

"Unfortunately, the continued existence of the terminal from which we operate is uncertain, due to security and bureaucratic difficulties that have been piled on us from external bodies," Tamir wrote to Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz.

"Even though we have purchased the appropriate security equipment, and have acquired professional manpower, we don't have the capability to conduct the proper security checks due to a lack of space in which to hold the equipment and conduct them. We are therefore unable, under the orders of the Transportation Ministry and against our will, to allow Arabs to fly."

Senior Transportation Ministry official for international relations Avner Ovadia said Tuesday that "Transportation Ministry Director General Gideon Siterman intends to hold a discussion on the matter with the participation of all involved parties in an effort to bridge the gaps and to allow the continuation of regular flights."

'Jewish, Arab or foreign'A source in the Shin Bet security services told Haaretz that "security regulations require examination of luggage by X-ray in keeping with the security classification of each passenger and regardless of whether they are Jewish, Arab or foreign."

In a June letter to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz, attorney Abir Bakhar of the Adaleh legal aid center called the directive "racist, arbitrary, discriminatory and patently illegal."