A ministry representative spoke these words at an Economic Affairs Committee meeting on the subject of creating an airport in Nevatim, which took place at the request of MK Braverman, who ”called on the prime minister to make a Ben-Gurion-like decision.” The Defense Ministry Director of Division of Assets said that for long term, the alternative of an island is preferable, while in the short term Ben Gurion airport`s capacity can be enlarged. Regarding an airport at Megido, a Defense Ministry representative said ”the switch is problematic but possible.”
The Knesset Economic Affairs Committee met at the request of Knesset Member Avishai Braverman. The discussion dealt with the construction of an international airport in addition to the Ben Gurion airport. Braverman praised the decision of Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz to support establishing an airport at the Nevatim air base. It had been clear for years, he added, that establishing an airport at Nevatim is one of the cornerstones of developing the south. Referring to the alternative, establishing an airport at Megido, he stated, ”Everyone knows that would be a mistake”.
Braverman added that he knows former army personnel who support an airport at Nevatim. ”If we go with the approach that a military decision is the deciding one, we`ll be left with `the state of Tel Aviv.` I expect the Prime Minister to make a Ben-Gurion-like decision and ask that the Minister of Defense make a brave decision as well.”
MK Uri Ariel also discussed the Transportation Minister`s decision, saying it is correct and supplements the proposal to move army headquarters to the south. He stressed that the issue had been examined by El Al CEO and former air force commander Eliezer Shakedi; Shakedi told him all the problems were solvable and that the issue is entirely a question of financial investment. Therefore MK Ariel proposed asking the Prime Minister to agree to build an airport at Nevatim.
MK Dov Khenin said there were three central arguments for an airport in Nevatim. ”The first is economic; Nevatim is the true geographical center of Israel and it is logical to develop the region. The second is environmental: The idea of turning the Jezreel Valley into an airport is nightmarish. Thirdly, there is no logic in building an airport auxiliary to Ben Gurion, and only 40 kilometers away.” He summed up by saying, ”we need to decide if we are a country with an army or an army with a country.”
Defense Ministry Director of Division of Assets Alon Yifrach stated that the issue has far-reaching ramifications, and not just for the air force. ”In the long term we need to promote the alternative of an island, an off-shore base for additional infrastructure, and in the short-term we can increase Ben-Gurion airport`s capacity.” As for Megido, Yifrach said, ”there too it injures many different defense interests, and we opposed this alternative as well, but after understanding the situation we came to the conclusion that it is possible in that place to live together—a problematic alternative, but a possible one.”
Yifrach referred to statements made by ”former senior air force officials”, saying, ”I`m unworthy to argue with them, but we have seen again and again the phenomenon of `the formers,` the majority of the weight of opinion must be given to those who have the authority, who handle the issue responsibly and are concerned for the security interests of the State of Israel.” Yifrach added that there is an inter-ministry staff which included the Directors General of the Defense and Transportation Ministries, which arrived at a different conclusion. The mayor of Dimona, Meir Cohen, reacted and said to Yifrach, ”the staff of Dimona`s municipality thinks differently.” Yifrach replied, ”There is a limit to how many risks we can take.”
MK Hamad Amar, who chaired the meeting, decided to schedule another meeting soon in order to enable a deeper discussion on the subject. He suggested inviting the Director Generals of the Ministries of Defense and Transportation to the meeting, in order that they present their clear opinions on the subject.