Sharansky Meets El Al Head to Resolve Price Dispute Stalling Aliyah

The top management of El Al met with Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky yesterday in an effort to resolve a price dispute that has been stalling immigration.

The dispute began when El Al announced it was raising the prices on the tickets offered to the Jewish Agency by 5 percent. The agency refused, and no agreement for 2010 has been signed.

The Jewish Agency uses El Al to bring immigrants into Israel and fly employees on business trips abroad, paying the airline an estimated NIS 20 million annually.

The meeting, which was held in Jerusalem, was "good and practical," the Jewish Agency said in a statement. "The two sides have explained their position and agreed to continue negotiations."

The Jewish Agency was represented at the meeting by Sharansky, director general Moshe Vigdor and the head of the financial department, Yaron Neudorfer. Outgoing El Al CEO Haim Romano and former Israel Air Force chief Eliezer Shkedy, who has been named his replacement, represented the airline.

El Al said the deputy directors of both parties would meet in an effort to reach a mutually acceptable deal.

Meanwhile, the Jewish Agency signed a NIS 2 million contract with El Al competitor Israir to fly immigrants from Moscow, Berlin, Rome, Milan, Basel and Nice to Israel.

The Jewish Agency also recently signed a NIS 4.1 million agreement with a third Israeli airline, Arkia, to fly in immigrants from Paris, Kiev, Tbilisi and Munich. Until that deal, which was reported this week, the larger ailrine had a monopoly on Jewish Agency flights.