Jerusalem yeshiva student seeks to gain control of El Al airlines

American businessman is vying to purchase controlling interest through his son who holds dual American-Israeli citizenship.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

An American businessman is in negotiations to buy a controlling interest in Israel’s financially troubled El Al national airline through his son, a yeshiva student, Calcalist reported Sunday.

Naftali Rosenberg is a New York-based real estate entrepreneur who also owns hotels and nursing homes in the United States, but is negotiating to buy El Al shares through his son Eli, a Jerusalem yeshiva student in his 20’s, who holds dual American-Israeli citizenship.

Last week the government and El Al reached a deal for a bailout for the broke airline under which the air carrier will receive a state-guaranteed $250 million loan and will offer $150 million in new shares on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange.

Terms of the agreement are that any shares not bought by the public would be purchased by the government and result in the nationalization of El Al, something the government hopes to avoid.

Because controlling interest must be held by an Israeli citizen, if Rosenberg’s negotiations are successful and the family acquires the company it will be done under his son Eli’s name.

Rosenberg is currently in talks with El Al parent company Knafaim with the focus on El Al’s ability to meet the conditions for receiving state aid including firing a third of its workforce, the Globes business newspaper reported.

“It is clear that the state is committed to helping El Al on condition that El Al takes steps to help itself,” company CEO Gonen Usishkin said in a letter to El Al employees. “This means implementing the program presented to the Ministry of Finance precisely and according to the stages set out.”

El Al representatives held meetings Sunday with officials at the Ministry of Finance. El Al management has already signed agreements within the Histadrut national trade union on pay cuts and cutting back a third of the 5,500 cabin staff, administrative employees and technical staff that will save the company about $120 million annually.

The airline has not yet reached a similar agreement with its 650 pilots.

With no cash left to pay any bills, let alone tens of millions in refunds owed customers whose flights were canceled due to the pandemic, El Al was forced to stop flying last week.