After years of attempts to find a location for a second major international airport in Israel, the Ramat David air force base in the Lower Galilee has emerged as the likely solution.
In recent days, Defense Ministry Director General Dan Harel and his Transportation Ministry counterpart Uzi Itzhaki agreed in principle to turn the storied base into a civilian airport in the future.
The Jezreel Valley site, which is currently the air force’s only base in northern Israel, will revert to a military base in the event of an emergency.
Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz said the goal is for the new airport to be ready five years after the plan receives government approval, which it has yet to achieve, Yedioth Ahronoth reported.
The question of funding for the project remains unresolved, as the Defense Ministry refuses to pay for the new airport by itself.
Under the plan, a new civilian terminal will be built at the site, and existing runways will likely be extended.
Katz said a private company will run the airport, but air traffic control will be handled by the relevant government authorities.
The new airport will be smaller than Ben Gurion, he said, with 6 million passengers coming through a year.
The airport will be linked to the new branch of the country’s rail network, which will run from Haifa through the Jezreel Valley to Beit She’an when construction is completed.
The search for a new airport to complement Ben-Gurion International Airport in Lod gained urgency this summer, when US and several European airlines briefly suspended flights to and from Israel after a projectile landed in a town near the airport in late July during the conflict against Hamas in Gaza.
Other sites have been examined and rejected. The southern air force base Nevatim was proposed, but air force opposition nixed that plan.
Megiddo in northern Israel was also a possibility, but opposition from local residents put that plan on the back burner.
Another proposal would have seen runways at Haifa’s airport extended into the sea, but the proximity of the Carmel mountain range made the landing of large passenger aircraft unfeasible.