Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today inaugurated the new Ramon Airport north of Eilat. The new airport, located in Timna, is the first civilian international airport built in Israel since independence. Named after Ilan and Assaf Ramon, it is designed to handle 4.5 million passengers annually.
Accompanied by Minister of Transport and Intelligence Yisrael Katz and a large entourage, Netanyahu reached the airport around noon, despite an especially tense night on the northern border last night. Netanyahu, who is also Minister of Defense and Minister of Foreign Affairs, was accompanied by new IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi.
Speaking at the ceremony, Netanyahu said, "This is a great project. We are building and developing the country for our children and grandchildren. Here at Timna, we are making the Negev and the Arava bloom, and adding another element to the vision of building the Negev. Today, we are expanding our civil aviation revolution many times over. We also have powerful military aviation, of course, in the form of the air force with its enormous capabilities. The air force yesterday struck a powerful blow in Syria after Iran launched a missile at us.
"We are not passing over Iran's efforts to establish itself in Syria and its declarations that it wants to destroy Israel, as the Iranian commander just now stated. We attack anyone who tries to attack us. Anyone who threatens to destroy us will bear full responsibility for it."
Netanyahu added, "This airport comes on top of Ben Gurion Airport at Lod. It is the first addition of a civilian airport in Israel. It will be bustling with domestic and international activity. We will add another civilian airport as required at times of emergency, so that the civil aviation artery essential to the country will not be cut off. We adapted the length of the runways to the size of airplanes, so that everyone will be able to take off and land here. We are expanding access to the Negev by paving roads, expanding communities, and taking care of Jewish and non-Jewish citizens.
"The combination of government investment in infrastructure with the Law for the Encouragement of Capital Investment is a mighty one. This is my vision for the Negev and the Galilee: a combination of government and private investment. Ramon Airport will give the Negev, the Arava, and Eilat a powerful push. 70 years after planting the flag at Umm al-Rashrash, the gate to the Negev is receiving greater access to the rest of Israel and overseas. Eilat will be an anchor of prosperity. Eilat is rising higher and higher in the international rating, and this is only a beginning."
Netanyahu referred to Israel's security and the terrorist threat of Islamic extremism on Jordan's eastern border, saying, "The prior condition is ensuring security. The fence we built on the border with Egypt completely halted infiltration from Sinai. The fence behind us (with Jordan) will give us a defense envelope against threats from Islamic extremism. We will complete the fence on our entire eastern border.
"I returned during the night from Chad. I wanted to land here directly, but they told me to wait a few hours at night. Aircraft will come here from all over the world. We are opening flight opportunities above countries and shorter flight routes that cut flight costs. I hope that we will soon be able to fly from here and also through Ben Gurion Airport to Africa, Egypt, and Chad, and from there it will be possible to continue to Brazil and South America. Israel is being opened to the world. Israel is become an international hub."
In place of the existing airports in Eilat and Ovda
The Israel Airports Authority, which produced the ceremony, flew several dozen reporters on a separate flight from Terminal 1 at Ben Gurion Airport on a domestic flight. After a 45-minute flight, a desert miracle was revealed to the journalists: one of the world's most modern and beautiful aviation facilities, with stunning architecture integrated in the desert to the greatest possible extent. A more significant miracle is the release of Eilat from its small old airport, which blocked the main part of the city and made development and change in the beautiful desert town impossible.
If the forecasts are borne out, the airport will be full of direct charter flights from Europe arriving with no intermediate stop at Ben Gurion Airport. Their first encounter with Israel will be a mirage: a picturesque and modern desert abode only a 20-minute drive from a hotel on the sea.
The new airport will be used for international and inland aviation to the south, and will replace the old airports in Eilat and Ovda. Katz says that the airport will be an alternative to Ben Gurion Airport in an emergency.
In memory of Ilan, Assaf, and Rona Ramon
Katz congratulated Netanyahu and the IDF for the successful night mission, saying, "The Bible commands us, 'If someone plans to kill you, kill him first.' Anyone who fires missiles at Mt. Hermon will pay the price. That is the difference between them and us. We build airports and invest in infrastructure; they waste huge sums at the expense of the Iranian people in order to create terrorist infrastructure that will threaten Israel. With the help of the Rock of Israel and the IDF, we will win.
"The skies of Eilat and the Negev are now open to competition, and are joining the open skies policy led by the Israeli government in recent years," Katz added. "This policy led to competition, a dramatic fall in flight prices, and a huge increase in the number of passengers: more than 22 million passengers in the past year, compared with only 10 million passengers in 2009. The target for the current year is 25 million passengers."
The airport in Timna was named after Ilan and Assaf Ramon as a token of Israel's appreciation for the Ramon family. Ilan and Assaf Ramon International Airport was unveiled several months ago in the presence of the late Rona Ramon, Ilan's widow and Assaf's mother, and her family. "Nothing is more symbolic and appropriate for perpetuating the memory of these two people, who contributed greatly to Israel," Katz said. He mentioned the late Rona Ramon, who did not live to see the airport's opening. "One woman, a rare and special woman, should have been here with us today, the late Rona Ramon… In the past year, I knew about Rona's terrible disease. Knowing of her courage and enormous strength, I hoped that she would see this, but unfortunately, it was fight one too many. Rona is unfortunately not here with us today, but for her children, Tal, Yiftah, and Noa, this airport will perpetuate their father and brother, but also their mother, Rona," Katz said.
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on January 21, 2019
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