Israel intends to allow the Palestinian Authority to acquire helicopters for flights for its senior officials for the first time since 2001, according to a Thursday report.
The Haaretz daily reported that Israeli security chiefs had objected to the prospect over the years, fearing the choppers would be used for smuggling purposes as happened under former Palestinian Authority president Yasser Arafat.
But now, officials have recommended the government accept current president Mahmoud Abbas’s request as part of steps aimed at strengthening his position within the PA, according to the report.
Israeli government officials are also reportedly willing to approve the change.
Haaretz reported that according to a current draft of the plan, Israel intends to allow the PA to purchase two helicopters with funds donated by Gulf countries.
The helicopters would be stationed in Jordan, and senior Palestinian officials would be able to use them when needed, the report said.
When traveling through Israeli airspace, which includes over the West Bank, the PA would be required to ask for flight authorization.
Following the Oslo Accords signed between Israel and the PA in the early 1990s, Jerusalem authorized Arafat to hold three Soviet-made Mil Mi-8 helicopters, the report said.
In 2001 with the outbreak of the Second Intifada, then-Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon ordered the helicopters be destroyed after they were allegedly used to smuggle weapons and wanted Palestinians.
Currently, Abbas is provided a helicopter by Jordan for flights when needed.