Helipad completed in Liberman’s settlement, after his exit from Defense Ministry

Project intended to allow defense chief to swiftly leave home will now be used by army forces in area, ministry says; watchdog asserts public funds were wasted

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman arrives in the West Bank on 2017. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman arrives in the West Bank on 2017. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)

The Defense Ministry in December completed construction of a helicopter landing pad in the West Bank settlement of Nokdim, the Times of Israel has learned, built to allow Avigdor Liberman to swiftly travel from his home in the settlement to carry out his duties as defense minister. The only problem? Liberman left the post in November.

The initial approval for the landing pad was made in September 2017, roughly a year and a half after the Yisrael Beytenu chairman was appointed defense minister. Security officials at the time told the Kan public broadcaster that the reasoning behind the project was security based. The ministry was concerned about Liberman taking the same road out of his community southeast of Bethlehem each day and preferred he have multiple routes of travel from the West Bank.

In 2014 and 2018, the Shin Bet thwarted plans devised by the Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror groups to ambush Liberman’s convoy on its way from Nokdim toward Jerusalem.

The IDF seized roughly an acre’s worth of state land outside the Nokdim resident’s home in order to build the pad as well as a road connecting it to the settlement’s access road.

The helicopter pad built for former defense minister Avigdor Liberman outside his home in the Nokdim settlement. (Dror Etkes)

The defense ministry confirmed to the Times of Israel in a statement that the landing platform had been completed after Liberman submitted his resignation on November 14 of last year, but said construction had begun before he left the post.

However a resident of Nokdim who spoke on condition of anonymity claimed that as of the beginning of November “almost no work had been completed” on the project.

For it’s part, the Defense Ministry explained that it decided to complete the project after Liberman’s resignation because the landing pad “will be used by the security forces in the Judea and Samaria [West Bank] area.”

Responding to the ministry’s claim, the Kerem Navot settlement watchdog group asserted that the decision to allow the chopper platform to be used by IDF forces “was a new invention designed to obscure the simple fact that the landing pad was built at the expense of the taxpayer, regardless of need.”

A sign along the road leading to the helicopter pad built for former defense minister Avigdor Liberman outside of his home in the Nokdim settlement that reads “Military area. Only authorized vehicles may enter.” (Dror Etkes)

“The proof of this is that there are hundreds of towns in Israel and the West Bank that do not have chopper pads, and yet helicopters have no problem landing there in cases of emergency,” the left-wing NGO added.

This is not the first time that new transportation infrastructure has allegedly been built specifically to benefit Liberman. In 2007, Israel inaugurated Route 398 connecting settlements south of Bethlehem, including Nokdim, to East Jerusalem’s Har Homa. Construction of the road began when Liberman was serving as transportation minister, and the bypass route became known as the “Liberman Road.”

A statement from Liberman’s office said the former defense minister “never dealt with this issue and the decision [to build a landing pad] was made by professional officials in the defense establishment. Liberman did not ask to build a landing pad and did not provide any guidance on the issue — not before his resignation from the post, and not after it.”

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