El Al to fly to Argentina

Decades after the flight that carried Eichmann, El AL flies again between Israel and Argentina.

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El Al airplane
El Al airplane
Photo: Moshe Shai / Flash90

JTA - The Argentinean and Israeli national air carriers signed an agreement to begin flights between Buenos Aires and Tel Aviv.

Aerolineas Argentinas President Mario Dell’Acqua and an El Al vice president met on Friday at the Argentinean embassy in Tel Aviv to sign the final agreement between the two national airlines.

El Al and Aerolíneas Argentinas flights will begin next month. Currently a visit of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to Argentina in September as part of a visit to Latin American countries is in the planning stages. If confirmed, Netanyahu will announce the first flight during the visit. The visit, tentatively scheduled for September 12 and 13, would be the first visit of a sitting Israeli prime minister to Argentina and Latin America.

The president of Argentina’s Jewish political umbrella DAIA, Ariel Cohen Sabban, and the group’s vice president, Alberto Indij, participated in the codeshare signing event.

“We celebrate the historic event, which means that more Argentineans can travel to visit Israel and also we are happy to see the Argentinean flag in the Israeli sky soon,” Cohen Sabban told JTA from Israel.

To trigger the agreement, in March Argentine Foreign Minister Susana Malcorra and Israeli Ambassador to Argentina Ilán Sztulman signed in Buenos Aires a framework agreement. The Argentinean Foreign Ministry wrote then on its web page that the agreement “was made possible by the excellent relations that exist between aeronautical authorities, in addition to the historical bonds between both countries. It will be supplemented by the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding which will enable the immediate operation of scheduled flights by the designated airlines.”

In fact, a 2017 El Al flight between Israel and Argentina won’t be the first such flight in history. On May 19, 1960, a special Israeli delegation headed by Minister Without Portfolio Abba Eban left Tel Aviv to Buenos Aires to participate in the 150th anniversary celebration of Argentine Independence. At least this was the official version of that inaugural trip, as JTA reported at the time.

On May 20, 1960, after nine days in captivity in Buenos Aires, Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann was brought onto the El Al plane that had landed in Buenos Aires the day before carrying the diplomatic delegation from Israel. The Holocaust mastermind was dressed in the uniform of an El Al crew member. The first El Al flight from Buenos Aires to Tel Aviv stopped for refueling in Dakar, Senegal. On May 22, Eichmann landed in and was arrested in Israel. He was convicted in Israel of war crimes and crimes against humanity in 1961 and hanged the following year. It is the only time that Israel has used the death penalty.

According to the announcement in May by Argentina’s official gazette, the commercial flights will have a stopover in the Spanish airports of Madrid or Barcelona.