Israel’s Air Force One Grounded Before It Ever Flies

By Shmuel Smith

The official airplane of the Israeli Prime Minister (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

YERUSHALAYIM – The Defense Ministry is putting Israel’s version of Air Force One in storage – before any Israeli leader has ever had a chance to fly in it.

The Boeing 767 – which cost 750 million shekels ($241 million) and took years to renovate for its special mission – was intended for use by prime ministers and presidents, but it now appears doubtful whether that will ever come to pass.

Once it was finished and gained approval for flight, it was no longer wanted. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who authorized the project was no longer prime minister, and his successors have been loathe to use the plane.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said it should be sold off, since “it represents everything that was corrupt and broken in the Netanyahu government.”

He was not referring to its advanced security and communications features, but to the private office for the prime minister, a bedroom with a bathroom and shower, a fully stocked kitchen, a meeting room and a “war room.”

Lapid’s comment followed a highly critical report earlier this year from State Comptroller Matanyahu Englman, who said the cost of an average flight aboard the new plane would be close to double that of chartering a private jet for official business. He also questioned the demand for a plane that could hold 100-120 people, when the average number of passengers on a flight by a prime minister is only 61.

Nevertheless, Englman acknowledge that the new plane is “a clear improvement over the previous situation… in the level of security, including defense of the plane and information security.” Others have noted that the predicted costs of future flights stated by the comptroller include the already sunk costs in its creation.

 “The plane will be stored on-site [at the Nevatim air force base in southern Israel], while being maintained until a decision is made about how it will be used in the future,” the ministry said.

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