Israel will have its own version of Air Force One, thanks to a Cabinet vote approving the expenditure in light of the inability of the prime minister to conduct secure communications when in flight under present arrangements.
The purchase of a new plane, at a cost of $70 million, came with Cabinet endorsement of new offices and an adjacent residence for the prime minister, estimated to cost $188 million.
The decision follows a recommendation by the public committee chaired by High Court Judge Emeritus Eliezer Goldberg that states that without a private plane, the prime minister cannot have regular communications with Israel on long flights to certain countries. Urgent decisions involving national security sometimes have to wait hours before the prime minister can be briefed. Such specially-equipped aircraft is now considered routine for world leaders and corporation heads.
Yesh Atid ministers, including Minister of Finance Yair Lapid and Minister of Environmental Protection Amir Peretz (Movement), voted against the decision. Minister of Housing and Construction Uri Ariel abstained.
Uriel’s abstention was due to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s decision to impose a building freeze in Yehudah and Shomron after the talks with the Palestinian Authority fell apart, sources told Arutz Sheva.
According to the sources, the building freeze was designed to make it appear that Israel was not taking advantage of the end of the talks, and was still interested in resuming them. By freezing building, Netanyahu believes, he will cause world leaders to increase pressure on PA chief Mahmoud Abbas to continue the talks.