The letter was sent to parliament’s national security committee which has begun debating whether to permit Israeli flights to land in the Maldives.
“If there is a terrorist attack in the Maldives due to the commencement of Zionist Israel’s flight operations to Maldives, the tourist arrival rates for the next 12 months will decline by 10-36 percent,” Adhaalath predicted in the letter, adding that the tourism industry would face a loss of US$200 million to US$1 billion. The party did not elaborate on how it reached the figures.
Adhaalath severed its coalition agreement with the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) in September, soon after the Transport Ministry granted a licence to Israeli flag carrier El Al to begin operations to Maldives.
Since then, Adhaalath has been campaigning against the licence, stirring strong anti-Israeli sentiment.
In the letter forwarded to the national security committee, which has an MDP majority, Adhaalath alleged that the Israeli flights are “targeted by the terrorists” and said that terrorist “eyes” would turn on Maldives if the operations commence, posing “serious threats to the national security”.
MPs debated Adhaalath’s letter during Wednesday’s committee meeting and decided to summon the head of the Maldives security forces to examine the claims.
“We will discuss the concerns raised by the Adhaalath Party and consult security forces to determine whether action should be taken,” said committee head, MDP MP Ali Waheed.
MDP MP Mohamed Thoriq was meanwhile quoted in local media as calling for an investigation into all the allegations Adhaalath has made regarding the Maldives’ ties with Israel, claiming that as a 100 percent muslin country, the Maldives must “be prepared for any threats from Israel”.
Sun Online reported MDP MP Mohamed Nazim meanwhile suggested conducting research into whether Jewish arrivals to the Maldives in the past had caused any negative effect on the Islamic faith, while Independent MP Mohamed Zubair was quoted as claiming that Israeli flight operations would “bring no benefit to the Maldivian economy”.
Transport Minister Adhil Saleem observed that opponents of allowing Israel to fly to the Maldives “don’t seem to have an issue with Israeli tourists coming to the Maldives and spending their money.”
His mandate as Transport Minister was to increase air, sea and cargo transport to and from all countries, Saleem said, “and if there is no specific legal exemption for Israel, I cannot treat it any differently as that would mean I was corrupt.”
He would not comment on whether allowing El Al to fly to the Maldives posed a security risk, deferring to the defence forces. There were, he said, many Muslim Israelis and a number of Islamic holy sites in Israel, such as the Masjid-Al-Aqsa, and 500-800 Maldivians flew there each year.
According to Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics, the Arab population of Israel in 2010 was estimated at 1,573,000, 20 percent of the country’s total population and almost five times that of the Maldives.
El Al is notably the only commercial airline equipped with infrared counter-measures for defence against anti-aircraft missiles, according to the its Wikipedia entry. All flights are manned by armed sky marshals, the cockpit is protected by a two door ‘mantrap’, and the baggage hold is armoured to protect the passenger cabin from explosive devices.
The airline’s last reported security incident occurred in 2002 when a 23 year-old Israeli Arab was apprehended after attempting to break into the cockpit with a pocket knife. Earlier that same year a gunman killed two people and was shot dead at an El Al check in counter at Los Angeles International Airport.
The first El Al flight was due to arrive in the Maldives on December 13, however Saleem said the airline has so far yet to forward the scheduling to the Ministry.