'We were misled as well'

Military pilots said angry at Netanyahu for using them as pawns in deception tactic

Air Force chopper was ordered to take PM to protest-blocked airport en route to Italy, but he then took a police helicopter; pilots were reportedly unaware of ruse

An Air Force helicopter hired to fly Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the airport waits at the launchpad at Jerusalem's Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital, March 9, 2023. (Screenshot: Twitter; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
An Air Force helicopter hired to fly Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the airport waits at the launchpad at Jerusalem's Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital, March 9, 2023. (Screenshot: Twitter; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Military helicopter pilots are reportedly angry at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who allegedly kept them in the dark on Thursday about the fact that they were not about to fly the premier to the airport, and that they were instead taking part in a diversion tactic.

The protest movement against the Netanyahu government’s plan to radically overhaul the judiciary held a “national day of resistance” on Thursday, holding rallies and marches nationwide, blocking highways and briefly blocking the entrance road to Ben Gurion Airport ahead of Netanyahu’s trip to Italy.

Rather than get caught up in the traffic mayhem prepared by the demonstrators, the media published ahead of time that the premier would take a helicopter to the airport.

An Air Force chopper from the 124 Squadron was ordered and flown to a launchpad at Jerusalem’s Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital, where some protest leaders spotted it and urged other demonstrators to come and block the area.

But Netanyahu never showed up. He took off in a police helicopter from a different location — some Hebrew reports said it was from the Knesset, others said it was from the area of Halilim Stream near the town of Mevasseret Zion.

The military chopper ended up returning, empty, to its base, after the pilots were told they were dismissed.

A police helicopter carrying Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from Jerusalem to Ben Gurion Airport, March 9, 2023. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

On Monday, several news outlets reported anger within the military squadron, saying nobody in the Air Force had known ahead of time about the deception plan — not even the squadron commander, who had planned to fly the helicopter himself.

“We were misled as well,” an unnamed source within the squadron was quoted as saying before quipping: “A real operation deep in enemy territory.”

The reports also quoted sources in the squadron saying it was “an unacceptable deception trick.”

The reports said the squadron commander was demanding an official probe into the incident.

The tactic cost taxpayers tens of thousands of shekels, according to the Calcalist news site.

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