Direct flights to Israel resume after 10 years

Mr Avigdor Lieberman, the Israeli Foreign minister. Photo/FILE
Mr Avigdor Lieberman, the Israeli Foreign minister. Photo/FILE 

Direct flights between Nairobi and Tel Aviv are expected to resume this year, more than a decade since they were stopped on security concerns.

Kenya and Israel are set to sign the deal next week when Israel Foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman is expected in the country for an official visit.

“Next week in Kenya, Israel FM (Foreign minister) Lieberman will inaugurate a direct flight between Tel Aviv and Nairobi,” Paul Hirchson, a spokesman of the Israeli Foreign ministry said on his official Twitter handle Tuesday.

Officials at the Israeli embassy in Nairobi said the actual flights would, however, resume in December.

“The deal unlocking the direct flights will be signed next week but the actual flights resume in December. The minister will take advantage of his visit to Africa to clear the hurdle for the resumption of flights between the two capitals,” an official told the Business Daily.

Direct flights between Israel and Kenya were stopped in 2003, months after an attack on Israeli interests in Mombasa.

In November 2012, suspected al Qaeda terrorists attacked an Israeli-owned Paradise hotel in Mombasa, killing at least 13 people. The same day, terrorists unsuccessfully tried to shoot down an Israeli Airlines passenger jet with surface-to-air missiles.

Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) is undergoing a major upgrade to boost its passenger handling capacity and security.

An Israeli company, Magal Security Systems, was recently awarded a contract to install multiple surveillance and access control technologies at the airport.

Direct flights could boost bilateral ties between the two nations. At present, about 50 Israeli-owned companies have invested in Kenya, mainly in agriculture, telecoms, construction, irrigation equipment, and veterinary and human medicine.

Fresh produce

According to the Economic Survey 2014, Kenya’s exports to Israel amounted to Sh1.12 billion in 2013 compared to Sh2 billion the previous year while the country imported goods from Israel worth Sh9.4 billion from Sh7.2 billion a year earlier.

Kenya mainly exports to Israel fresh produce, wood and wood products, plant and vegetable products, rubber, and paper among others.

Imports include footwear, non-metallic mineral products, base metals, and machinery.