The workers unions for El Al, Arkia and Israir have announced they are launching a general strike starting Sunday in protest of the government's plan to sign an open skies agreement with the European Union.
The agreement will allow all EU airlines to operate direct flights from Europe to Israel and all Israeli airlines to fly to EU destinations. The unions are claiming this will destroy Israeli airlines and will lead to major redundancies
Workers at Israel's three main airline carriers threatened on Friday to launch an open-ended strike in protest at the government's plans to ratify an open skies deal with Europe they see as a threat to their jobs.
Israeli media reported Finance Minister Yair Lapid is to meet Transport Minister Yisrael Katz on ways to avert a strike, including the possibility of delaying a vote on deal long sought as a means of reducing travel costs and boosting tourism.
However, during their meeting, Katz announced that the government is intent on accepting the open skies deal with the EU, despite airlines' opposition.
A statement from the head of the airline workers' branch of the Histadrut Labour Federation said the planned strike starting on Sunday was to save thousands of jobs it said were at risk if Israeli airlines had to compete with more European carriers.
Transport Minister Katz urged the unions at El Al, Arkia and Israir to call off the strike and accept the deal which is being discussed with European Union countries that has been in the works for the past three years.
"Such deals contain risks as well as benefits and the companies ought to exploit the opportunity" to compete more vigorously with European airlines which could also open the door to Israeli airlines landing in hundreds more cities, Katz said.
Billie Frenkel and Reuters contributed to this report