Adhaalath Party will terminate coalition agreement if Israeli airline allowed to operate in Maldives

The Adhaalath Party has said the party has decided to terminate the coalition agreement with the ruling Maldiivan Democratic Parrty (MDP) should the government permit an Israeli airline to operate in the Maldives.

Transport Minister Adil Saleem told Minivan News last Thursday that relevant authorities were currently processing a license for Sun d’Or International Airlines, a subsidiary of Israeli national carrier El Al, with a view to it operating flights to the Maldives.

Saleem claimed such a move would create opportunities for both Israeli tourists to visit the country as well as facilitate pilgrimages for Maldivians to mosques around Jerusalem and other parts of the country.

However the Adhaalath Party, which has significant influence in the Ministry of Islamic Affairs and is led by State Islamic Minister Sheikh Hussein Rasheed, issued a statement claiming that the majority of Islamic countries had not permitted the Israeli national carrier to operate.

“There are only two Islamic countries that have permitted El Al Airlines to operate: Egypt and Jordan,” the party said in a statement. “The other Islamic countries that allowed El Al Airlines to operate in their countries have withdrawn their permission. And it is to be noted that this Sun d’Or Airlines which is to commence operation in the Maldives is not an airline that any Islamic country so far permitted to operate.”

The party claimed there “were reasons” why out of the 50 Islamic countries, 48 had declined permission for El Al to operate.

“It is because Israel is the biggest enemy of the whole Muslim community, a country that has stolen the holy lands of Muslims, a country that is committing violence against the people of Palestine and as Israeli flights are targets of terrorist organisations, it raises security concerns,” the party said.

The Adhaalath Party added that it “regretted” that the current government had restored diplomatic relations with Israel, “ignoring the feelings of the citizens.”

The Adhaalath Party’s President Sheikh Hussein Rasheed told Minivan News that the decision was an official decision made by the party and that he had no further comment on the matter.

Adil Saleem acknowledged to Minivan News last week that “some Maldivians see Israel as controversial over the issue of Palestine. Yet Palestine accepts Israel as a state, benchmarking the point that I don’t see why we should not allow these flights.”

He also said that the license process for the operation of Sun d’Or was almost completed and that flights were expected to commence operating in Maldives in October this year.

President of religious NGO Jamiyyathul Salaf, Ahmed Bin Mohamed Ibrahim, meanwhile added that the organisation strongly opposed any move that would strengthens the relationship between Israel and the Maldives.

“It will cause more harm than benefit,’’ said Abdulla. “Damage was caused after diplomatic ties with Israel were restored.”

Abdulla said the education system of the Maldives “was ruined” as co-education was also introduced after ties were restored.

“All these issues were raised at the same time as the government restored diplomatic relations with Israel. Later came these doctors who first attempted to work in the Maldives without permission from the authorities,” he said. “They have already committed violence against Muslims in different areas of the world, so why should we expect any better?”

Visiting Israeli eye surgeons from the ‘Eyes from Zion’ NGO were in November met with protests and the burning of the Israeli flag in Male’s Republic Square. The Islamic Foundation NGO contested at the time that Israeli surgeons “have become notorious for illegally harvesting organs from non-Jews around the world.”

Opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Afrashim Ali claimed that Israelis and other foreign elements that “should not be allowed to enter a 100 percent Muslim country”, and would gain a foothold in the Maldives as a result of handing over management of the Male’ International Airport to Indian infrastructure giant GMR.

“[The airport deal with GMR] will open a big doorway for the people of Israel, who are brutalising Palestinians without any justification, to come to the Maldives and take over,” Afrashim said during the protests.

The debate over allowing Sun d’Or to operate in the Maldives could be moot after the airline’s license was revoked on April 1 by the Israel Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). El Al flights had reportedly been operating charter flights under different airline names – despite using the same aircraft and crew – in an effort to circumvent backlash from ultra-orthodox Israeli groups over its operating flights on the Sabbath and religious holidays. The airline has since stated that it would continue to not run flights on Sabbath days despite the loss of revenue, while Sun d’Or remains a charter brand under the national carrier.

“Sun d’Or operates as a designated carrier to European destinations, and carries out flights for El Al on the Saturdays and holidays. This enabled El Al to keep its 30-year plus status-quo with religious and haredi (ultra-orthodox) passengers by not flying on the Sabbath,” reported business magazine Globes.