Officials: If PA Doesn't Act, IDF Will Close Down Radio Stations
Israel threatened on Sunday to take military action if needed to protect its skies from PA “radio terrorism.” In a statement, the Communications Ministry said that it “took a very dim view” of the PA's attempts to wreck Israeli aviation at Ben Gurion Airport by not closing down illegal radio stations. The Ministry has filed an official complaint with the PA.
On Sunday, officials at Ben Gurion Airport said that they had experienced significant interference in communications with incoming planes, to the extent that some landings would have been dangerous had weather conditions been less stable. If such interruptions occur again, the officials said, they would have to shut down the airport, preventing planes from landing or taking off.
The source of the interference is illegal radio stations operating in the PA, especially Ramallah. Although procedures for regulation of the airwaves and licensing of radio stations is included in the Oslo Accords, the PA has never sought official permission for new radio stations, nor has it enforced its own commitment to shut down illegal stations.
Ben Gurion Airport uses a portion of the FM band for communications with incoming and outgoing planes, and Israeli radio stations are banned from those frequencies. The FM band in recent years has become very crowded with illegal PA radio stations, many of which broadcast on frequencies used by Israeli stations, with the result that drivers are “treated” to snippets of Arabic music and talk-shows interspersed with the programs they were listening to on Israeli stations. Seeking open frequencies, illegal PA radio stations have “settled” in the restricted Ben Gurion frequencies – endangering air traffic, as air traffic controllers have a hard time communicating with planes.
In recent years, Israeli authorities aggressively pursued Israelis who were operating illegal radio stations that, it was also claimed, interfered with communications at Ben Gurion Airport. However, as Israel has been very reluctant to enforce tenets of the Oslo Accords with the PA, Ben Gurion officials realize that the likelihood of getting the PA radio stations off the air are very low.
Regardless, they said that they could not continue to take chances with passengers' safety, and that if something was not done to stop the interference, they would have to shut the airport down. In its statement Sunday night, the Communications Ministry said that if the PA did not comply with its commitments, it would ask the IDF to get involved and to close down the radio stations.