It is not on the agenda for peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority that began yesterday in Washington, but it is a major problem that may have to be solved by force rather than simply by negotiations.
Earlier this week, Israel said it might take military action to halt broadcasts from pirate radio stations operating in the West Bank. The reference to military action came after two days when radio stations in the West Bank caused severe disruption to radio transmissions between Ben Gurion airport control tower and aircraft in the area.
The Israeli communications ministry says the Palestinian Authority is doing nothing to prevent illegal radio stations from operating. The ministry has filed an official complaint with the authority in the vain hope that it will solve the problem.
On Sunday, officials at Ben Gurion airport said interruptions to communication from the broadcasts forced the tower to open greater intervals between flights, disrupting the flight schedule.
Israeli sources say the pirate radio stations operate mainly from the Ramallah area, in contravention of a series of agreements.
“The Palestinian Authority ignores the problem,” says one Israeli source.
Ben Gurion Airport uses a portion of the FM band for communication with incoming and outgoing aircraft and Israeli radio stations are banned from using those frequencies.
Pirate radio stations in Israel that have disrupted aviation have been closed. Operators have faced heavy fines and some have been jailed.
Israeli sources emphasise that if all other means fail, the Israeli army will locate the stations and shut them down by force. “This is an act of terror that can cost in lives,” says one.
The exact location of the pirate radio stations is known so the military option could be adopted immediately.