The issue pops up almost every time the Israeli prime minister plans a long flight. After getting quotations from an airline someone in the prime minister’s office understands the problem and again initiates another evaluation of the question, “Is it right to purchase an Air Force One-type aircraft that will fly the leader to visits in foreign countries?”.
The need is clear, but the senior politicians that make decisions on very critical issues have not been able so far to make the decision about a dedicated aircraft.
A few days ago, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu again started another evaluation process of the issue. Sources related to the issue say clearly that there is no need for that new evaluation, but it is needed to counter expected public criticism. One of them used the term “ass-covering”. Sometimes two words explain an issue better than long reports.
Netanyahu recently ordered Harel Locker, the director-general of the Prime Minister’s Office, to appoint a special evaluation committee and a judge to head it. Netanyahu told Locker that the committee should review previous work on the issue by the Prime Minister’s Office, Finance Ministry and various security entities.
The reason for this repeated evaluation is simple. Later this month, Netanyahu will fly to New York to attend a UN General Assembly meeting. For the trip, EL AL will lease a plane to Netanyahu for $1.3 million .
In this case there was no competition, as EL AL is the only Israeli airline that has the right aircraft for that type of flight.
Past inquiries have been conducted into the economic viability of purchasing a plane that would serve as Israel’s Air Force One. Professional teams looked into comfort, space and amenities considerations and recommended that such a plane be bought.
In January 2012 I wrote that the plan to purchase or lease a dedicated aircraft that would fly the Israeli head of state abroad was shelved because the “atmosphere” was not right for such an investment. The government decided that even though a dedicated aircraft would be a cheaper alternative, the time was not right. The decision was made shortly after big demonstrations in major Israeli cities calling for social justice.
In 2011 the Israeli Ministry of Finance released a request for information (RFI) dealing with buying or leasing an aircraft that would be used to fly the prime minister to official trips abroad.
In the past, an Israeli air force (IAF) Boeing 707 was used for such trips, but the old aircraft did not meet even the basic requirements. In recent years, the Prime Minister’s Office has been issuing tenders to the three Israeli airlines each time the leader has to fly for an official visit abroad.
This procedure led to public criticism, especially when special cabin arrangements were required by the Prime Minister’s Office.
The RFI included three options – purchase, dedicated leasing or leasing according to need with a very short reaction time.
The implementation of the plan was hampered by the specifications that were included in the RFI. The company that prepared the specifications wanted something to the standard of a smaller scale Air Force One.
So, a committee will be formed, headed by a judge. A long report will be prepared, but sometimes, more often than not, the politicians do not allow the facts to confuse them.