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Less than six weeks prior to the slated closure of Tel Aviv’s Sde Dov Airport, Transportation Minister Israel Katz reiterated that Israel must be home to a third civilian airport.
Sde Dov, which primarily serves passengers traveling to Eilat and short-haul seasonal flights to Cyprus, is due to close on July 1, and its land repurposed for the development of residential accommodation.
“The State of Israel cannot remain without a complementary airport,” Katz told industry leaders attending the 2019 Israel Aviation Conference on Thursday.
“We need to make some decisions, and we don’t need someone to come along in the future and ask how this failure occurred, or that someone wishing to fly abroad will need to book 12 months ahead of time given the great demand that there will be in the coming years.”
The location of a third civilian airport has been under discussion for several years, with planning committees evaluating two possible sites at the Nevatim Israel Air Force Base located southeast of Beersheba, and Ramat David Airbase, situated in the Jezreel Valley.
Katz reemphasized his preference for constructing the airport at Nevatim, but the conversion of the site from military to civilian purposes has previously been dismissed by defense authorities.
“My role is to ensure that the Airports Authority is prepared for a decision in which it will need to resume flights from Ben-Gurion Airport,” said Katz, adding that the airport’s recently renovated Terminal 1 will need to handle domestic flights.
Despite vocal opposition from local authorities and Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai, the land currently occupied by Sde Dov Airport is expected to be razed for the construction of some 16,000 residential units.
Earlier this week, the Israel Lands Authority advanced plans for the first 4,844 residential units at the site, in addition to 45,000 sq.m. of commercial space, 145,000 sq.m. of office space and approximately 680 hotel rooms.
“The Sde Dov district plan is not just any plan, but a plan that today represents a milestone in the planning sector,” said Gili Tessler, Tel Aviv district planner at the authority.
“The fact that we are dealing with issues of density, sustainable infrastructure, renewable energies, complex proprietary rights and applications requires us to improve and innovate.”
To cope with growing passenger demand, the Transportation Ministry revealed expansion plans last week worth NIS 3 billion ($840 million) for Ben-Gurion Airport.
In 2018, almost 23 million passengers traveled through the airport. Within five years, passenger traffic is expected to reach 30 million annually.
Under the new plans, Ben-Gurion Airport’s main Terminal 3 will be expanded by some 80,000 sq.m., including the construction of a fourth passenger concourse; the addition of 90 new check-in counters and four baggage-hall conveyor belts; and the expansion of the existing duty free space, immigration checkpoints and parking facilities.
In January, the new Ramon Airport near Eilat – the first entirely civilian airport to open since independence – was inaugurated.
The NIS 1.7b. ($460m.) airport, named in memory of Ilan and Assaf Ramon and located in the Timna Valley, replaced the Eilat and Uvda airports, previously serving domestic and an increasing number of international flights.
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