"We support, and will support, an airport at Nevatim. There are problems, but that too is being dealt with," Minister of Finance Moshe Kahlon said at a gathering of Kulanu party activists in Afula this week.
While protests against the closure of Sde Dov Airport in Tel Aviv, due to happen on July 1 this year, are grabbing headlines, another pending decision, which will presumably be made by the next government, concerns the location of Israel's third international airport: whether at Ramat David in the north (Jezreel Valley) - which is the government's current preference - or at Nevatim in the Negev, within the jurisdiction of Dimona.
As far as Civil Aviation Authority Israel (CAAI) director Joel Feldschuh is concerned, Israel's third airport (after Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv and the new Ramon Airport near Eilat) must be constructed at Ramat David. At an aviation conference last May, Feldschuh said, "We will have three airports in Israel, whatever they say. Ramat David will be an airfield that serves both the Israel Air Force and civil aviation."
The arguments in favor of constructing the third airport in the Jezreel Valley mainly center on providing aviation services to the population of the north of Israel and jobs in the region. There is, however, fierce opposition, because of the fear of damage to nature in the area, traffic congestion, and air pollution. An alternative being explored is construction of an airport at Nevatim, and it is backed by the heads of the local authorities in the area, who on the eve of the local elections last September sent a letter on the matter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Kahlon, Minister of Transport Yisrael Katz, and Minister of the Interior and of Development of the Negev and Galilee Aryeh Deri, calling for the construction of an overflow airport in the Negev, which they described as "the most Zionist act that could take place in Israel in the next decade."
"There is no disputing that construction of a national project on this scale would represent a substantial leap in the momentum of development of the Negev, where demographic projections foresee growth of millions of residents in the coming decades."
Among the threshold conditions for construction of the new airport are an area of at least 3,000 dunams (750 acres) and runways 3.3 kilometers long. The two areas mentioned meet these conditions. The main problem with Nevatim is the proximity to an air force base, as well as the fact that Ramon Airport, which has just begun to handle international flights, is meant to be the airport serving the south, even though it is some distance from Nevatim, while an airport at Ramat David would serve the large proportion of the population living in the north.
A statement on behalf of the campaign against building an airport in the Jezreel Valley said, "We welcome the minister of finance's statement, but words are one thing and actions are another. The agencies for which he is responsible are energetically promoting the destruction of the Jezreel Valley and the abandonment of the south. We can only ask: Who gains from all this? Certainly someone must be making a profit out of it."
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on March 11, 2019
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