The government has voted to cancel the decision to build an airport at Ramat David in the Jezreel Valley in northern Israel. That decision was passed in 2014, and angered Jezreel Valley residents. The proposal to cancel the decision was put forward by Minister of Transport Merav Michaeli, together with Minister of Foreign Affairs Yair Lapid and Minister of Finance Avigdor Liberman.
In the light of the dramatic decline in air passenger traffic that has put the aviation industry back decades, it is not clear how much Israel needs another airport. 2021 had been projected to see some 30 million passengers (departures and arrivals) passing through Ben Gurion Airport this year. The actual number now looks as though it will be less than a third of that. Moreover, there are those in the industry who say that Ben Gurion’s capacity can be stretched to handle more passengers.
The alternatives for sites for an overspill airport were Nevatim in the south of Israel and Ramat David in the north. The advantage of constructing an international airport in the north lay mainly in the fact that it would be accessible to more of the population, and the northern site was also preferred by the airlines. Ramon Airport near Eilat is deserted for much of the year, with no international activity.
The main opposition to constructing an airport in the south was because of operations of the Israel Air Force and the proximity to the Dimona nuclear plant. Although local authority heads in the south lobbied for the airport to be built there, it was clear that the northern site was more viable. In the past, the possibility of an offshore airport at Haifa was examined, but it was rejected because of technical difficulties.
Cancellation of the previous government decision does not mean that the airport will now be built at Nevatim. An inter-ministerial team is to re-examine the whole matter. The hundreds of millions of shekels that have been invested in work on the project and presentation up to now will apparently go to waste.
"A long time before I was appointed minister of transport, I promised that there would not be an international airport in the Jezreel Valley," Michaeli said. "This is a matter of the national interest. In the past twenty years, the State of Israel has got carried away with the idea of ‘a robe of concrete and cement’ in an uncontrolled and irresponsible manner. As the years go by we shall become more crowded and more densely populated, and we shall need to preserve the few rural, open, agricultural, and green areas we have left even more. Otherwise we shall have no room to breathe.
"There is no dispute about the need for an overspill airport, but the decision must preserve all of Israel’s national interests, and not lead to irreversible moves that cause the State of Israel huge damage."
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on October 24, 2021.
© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd., 2021.