Israel’s Air Force One ready to take off, but Bennett not on board yet
Aviation authorities granted Israel’s version of Air Force One a “flight certificate” earlier this week, effectively authorizing it for use by the country’s rulers.
The NIS 750 million ($ 241 million) plane dubbed “Wing of Zion” took years to develop and is intended for use by Israeli heads of state on official business.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and President Isaac Herzog have yet to decide to use the plane, according to Hebrew media.
In order to receive a flight license, the plane must receive several approvals from the Prime Minister’s office, which is dragging its feet, according to reports.
The development of the aircraft has been closely identified with former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Supporters said it was crucial to safely transport key Israeli figures, while critics, including members of the current governing coalition, said it was just vanity. ‘a Prime Minister seeking to improve the outlook for his trips abroad.
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, Bennett’s coalition partner, has said in campaigns in recent years that he will not use the plane, calling it a waste of taxpayer money.
Bennett has not yet commented on the aircraft since taking office.
Lapid had lobbied to sell Wing of Zion, according to a report released in July by Ynet. The report says the defense establishment strongly opposes his position, saying the modernized aircraft is important to Israeli leadership.
The 20-year-old Boeing 767 aircraft has undergone extensive renovations in recent years to prepare it for its special use. It includes a private office for the Prime Minister, a bedroom with bathroom and shower, a well-equipped kitchen, a meeting room and even a “war room”.
Unveiling the plane on Wednesday, Israel Aerospace Industries workers union president Yair Katz called it “absurd that the splendor of Israeli art collects dust in the parking lot and not be used for the purposes of which it was developed by the best engineers of IAI â.
He also said that instead of using Wing of Zion, Bennett chartered planes from Israeli airlines, costing taxpayers even more money.
The project has been delayed several times, most recently last year when the office of then-Prime Minister Netanyahu ordered the freeze on test flights, in an effort to avoid unnecessary spending in the midst of the pandemic.
Last February, Wing of Zion successfully completed a test, clearing a major hurdle on the way to commissioning.