Following scathing report, Lapid urges sale of Israel’s ‘Air Force One’

Foreign minister, who has long opposed ‘Wing of Zion,’ rails against project after state comptroller highlighted serious irregularities in procurement and operation

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid condemns Russia's invasion of Ukraine, February 24, 2022. (Niv Musman/GPO)
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid condemns Russia's invasion of Ukraine, February 24, 2022. (Niv Musman/GPO)

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid called on Thursday for the immediate sale of Israel’s version of Air Force One following a scathing report by State Comptroller Matanyahu Englman regarding its procurement and operation.

The NIS 750 million ($241 million) plane, dubbed “Wing of Zion,” which took years to develop, is meant to be used by Israeli heads of state and government for official business.

Yet Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and President Isaac Herzog have yet to use the plane.

The development of the plane began under and was closely identified with former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“The state comptroller’s report is nothing short of appalling,” Lapid said. “The ‘Wing of Zion’ has not only cost hundreds of millions, but its operation will also be far more expensive than any other option.”

“The fact that the previous government wasted so much money will not make us waste anymore,” he vowed. “This plane represents everything that was corrupt and broken in the Netanyahu government — it needs to be sold immediately.”.

Israel Aerospace Industries workers union chair Yair Katz unveils Wing of Zion on December 8, 2021. (Israel Aerospace Industries workers union)

Lapid pledged during campaigns in recent years that he would not use the plane, calling it a waste of taxpayer money.

In the state comptroller report published on Wednesday, it was found that the cost of an average flight on the still-grounded plane is expected to be NIS 5.2 million ($1.5 million), 108 percent higher than the average flight costs currently, with the government chartering a plane from an Israeli airline at an average cost of NIS 2.5 million ($759,000).

It was also found that while the Prime Minister’s Office requested the plane be able to accommodate 100-120 passengers, the average flight by the prime ministers in 2010-2013 included only 61 people.

However, the report did note that the plane is “a clear improvement over the previous situation… in the level of security, including defense of the plane and information security, communications, controls, the conditions inside the plane, service in it and its availability.”

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