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El Al is suspending plans to buy three or four Airbus A-300 jets, Ha'aretz reports. The airline may be trying to take advantage of the tourism decline to jettison the issue of Airbus purchases in the near future when Israel might have to look toward the U.S. for help.

El Al's decision last year to expand its fleet aroused a fierce battle between Europe's Airbus and


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of the U.S. In October 1999 El Al's board decided to buy several A-300 aircraft for $250 million, as well as immediately to acquire three Boeing 777 aircraft for $400 million.

Opponents of the Airbus deal were primarily concerned that choosing the European-made planes would antagonize the U.S., which might then cut economic aid to Israel. In fact, the U.S. did lobby strongly against the deal, which explains why a revised finance plan for the Airbus purchase has yet to be presented to the

Transportation Ministry

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In other news, the

Movement for Quality Government in Israel

will petition the

High Court of Justice

today to block the appointment of David Hermesh as president of El Al on grounds that there were improprieties in the way he was selected. The government appointments committee meets next week to ratify his job.

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