Israeli Air Force One? Committee to Decide

Government secretary: current arrangements mean PM lacks proper means of communications when he flies.

Gil Ronen and AFP,

Airplane landing at Ben Gurion - illustrative
Airplane landing at Ben Gurion - illustrative
Flash 90

The government decided Sunday to set up a public committee to discuss the possibility of purchasing a plane for the prime minister for flights abroad. The plane will also be used by the president.

The committee will be headed by Supreme Court Justice (ret.) Eliezer Goldberg, a former State Ombudsman, and its other members will be former Israel Air Force Commander Major General (res.) Iddo Nehushtan, and CPA Iris Stark.

At present, the planes used by the prime miniser and president to fly abroad are rented from private companies, at costs that often reach several million shekels per flight.

The committee will also examine the possibility of constructing a unified structure to house the prime minister's official residence and the Prime Minister's Office.

It will present its findings after examining the financial and security considerations.

Government Secretary Avihai Mandelblit said that the plane is “a national security need that will serve the state of Israel for decades, if not longer. What is more,” he added, “currently the prime minister flies in planes that do not have adequate means of communications. This is something that almost all heads of advanced countries have.”

Netanyahu did not attend the memorial ceremony for Nelson Mandela last week because the flight would have been too expensive, and also because of security considerations. A veteran pundit has pointed out that the press would have attacked Netanyahu viciously if he had flown to Pretoria, because the trip would have cost 7 million shekels. 

Netanyahu has been criticized and ridiculed over his spending, including a double bed installed on the plane that flew him to London in April for the funeral of Britain's Margaret Thatcher on a trip that cost $127,000.

In March, he was embarrassed by reports that his family enjoyed a state-funded 10,000-shekel ($2,740) ice cream allowance, prompting him to cancel it.

Some observers say Netanyahu's wife, Sarah, is behind these expenditures.