El Al Israel Airlines (LY, Tel Aviv Ben Gurion) has cast doubt on the real identity of the bidder seeking to acquire a controlling stake in the carrier, yet has also declined the bidder's request to meet the board to clarify who he is, the financial newspaper Globes reported.

There is no point in a meeting until the true identity of the bidder is clarified, explained Avigdor Klagsbald, a lawyer acting on behalf of the board of El Al.

As previously reported, Eli Rosenberg, a 30-year-old yeshiva student in Jerusalem, made a formal offer for control of El Al on July 20. It is believed he is acting on behalf of his father, New York health-sector entrepreneur Kenny Rosenberg, even though the law states that potential buyers must have Israeli citizenship.

Last week, the El Al board sent a list of questions to Eli Rosenberg's representative Amikam Ben-Zvi, who responded by offering a meeting.

Now, Klagsbald has again written to Ben-Zvi asking for the bidder's true identity, adding that Ministry of Finance director general Keren Terner had urged El Al to explore the possibility of a cash injection by the potential buyer. Terner made the request after meeting Ben-Zvi herself on July 29.

Rosenberg has bid USD75 million for a 45% stake in the troubled carrier, depositing USD15 million for the purchase in a trustee account. The offer has a deadline of August 31, but Klagsbald said the deadline is not realistic.

Rosenberg's representatives have applied to the Government Companies Authority, a unit of the Ministry of Finance, for a permit to buy El Al, but this has not yet been granted.

While Klagsbald has repeatedly expressed the board's doubts about the seriousness of the offer, Eli Rosenberg has resorted to criticising the board, arguing: "Instead of saving the company, El Al continues on its track towards extorting money out of the government."

In an editorial on August 3, influential newspaper Haaretz argued that the priority should be to save El Al, not its top shareholders.

The airline's controlling shareholder is the company Knafaim, owned by the Borovitz family, but since the crisis began their role has been called into question, the editorial said.

Though it was clear the state would have to help, "it wasn’t clear how committed the controlling shareholders were to saving the company. After all, it’s unreasonable for the taxpayer to inject hundreds of millions of dollars into El AL, while the controlling shareholders [...] don’t want to stick their hands in their own pockets."

"If the company were given temporary protection from its creditors, a trustee would be appointed to run it in place of the controlling shareholders and try to navigate it safely to shore. This would require massive cost-cutting [...] but it would at least enable taxpayers to benefit from the possibility of the company recovering and perhaps being sold in the future to another private investor," the editorial suggested.