Some 28,000 passengers on 180 flights face having to make alternative travel arrangements following an announcement Tuesday by workers that they will shut down Ben Gurion International Airport from Friday evening to Saturday evening, to protest moves by the Interior Ministry to charge the Israel Airports Authority municipal taxes. If the strike goes ahead, only a skeleton staff will remain at the airport to deal with emergencies.
At issue is the establishment by Interior Minister Aryeh Deri of a committee that includes local council heads from the area to probe the possibility of taxing the airport and distributing the funds to residents living close to the complex.
The committee is working despite the fact that a petition filed with the High Court against the move has not yet been discussed.
Local authority heads have long tried to wrest taxes from the airport, which is located 19 kilometers (12 miles) south of Tel Aviv, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has pledged in writing that this would not happen.
Pinhas Idan, chair of the IAA’s workers’ committee, said Deri’s move was “a serious attempt to create facts on the ground and carry out a political grab in a year of local authority elections… to solve local problems of the authorities, and all this before there has been a legal debate on the matter.”
Implementation of the municipal tax idea would threaten the livelihood of thousands of workers and the safety and service for millions of passengers, he went on.
“The mayors have forgotten, but many of the workers at the authority and the companies that depend on it are residents of the area,” he said.
A spokesperson for the Histadrut labor federation said that the workers’ fears that such a move would affect the authority’s economic stability were well founded and that the Histadrut was talking with all those concerned to try to find a solution.
A spokesperson for the IAA said a skeleton staff would remain at the airport during the strike to deal with any unforeseen incidents such as a forced landing or the outbreak of war.