S’de Dov Airport in Tel Aviv has finally closed at midnight on Monday after largescale opposition.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu refused to reverse an unpopular move after discussions with Transportation Minister Bezalel Smotrich, legal advisers and professional considerations.
Netanyahu made it clear changing the controversial decision would damage the country and cost billions of shekels.
Looking ahead at Eilat’s development Netanyahu, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon and Smotrich approved a NIS 400 million plan to be submitted to the Cabinet by the end of July.
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit and Kahlon vowed to back the plan with necessary funds. Netanyahu will chair a ministerial team to instigate the plan.
Together with Smotrich, Netanyahu agreed to fulfil air transportation to Eilat via Ben-Gurion Airport at previous levels between Eilat and S’dei Dov.
Eilat residents however do not accept Ben-Gurion as an acceptable alternative due to the time it will take to transfer from Terminal 3 to Terminal 1.
Protesters feel abandoned as critical services, including oncology or cardiac units at their local hospital, will be affected.
Patients will have to fly via Ben-Gurion whilst university and college students commuting via S’dei Dov will likewise be hindered in terms of flexibility.
The government however state they are aware of medical concerns in terms of what Sde Dov offered.
Patients from Eilat receiving medical treatment will receive free taxis from Ben-Gurion to the hospital.
Chronically ill patients will receive finance for a taxi from their home to Ramon Airport, a flight and then a taxi to the hospital and accommodation.
Residents of Eilat and frequent flyers (without luggage) will get free transportation at Terminal 1 at Ben-Gurion directly to the Arlozorov train station in Tel Aviv.
A dedicated shuttle bus from Eilat flights from Terminal 1 to the train station will also be adapted to the flight schedule from Eilat. And a fixed ticket will save security checks before the flight.
Other benefits include Eilat flights taking off and landing from Terminal 1 only, and free parking at Ramon Airport for 36 hours.
Doctors will receive special incentives including grants to medical teams relocating to Eilat for five years.
Smotrich, MK Yoav Kisch (Likud) and Itzik Shmuli (Labour) battled against closure of Sde Dov for three years.
By Howard Lawrence