Citing COVID fears, Netanyahus to fly in private plane to US for UAE ceremony
Concerned about exposure to virus, premier, wife and possibly kids will travel separately from staff and press; PMO claims two planes cheaper than one
Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US correspondent
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara will travel to Washington for next week’s Israel-UAE normalization deal-signing ceremony in a private plane, separate from advisers and the media, his office said Thursday.
“Due to fears that the prime minister could be infected with the coronavirus on a flight with more than 70 people, professional sources instructed the prime minister to fly in a separate plane that the State of Israel uses from time to time,” the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement, following a Channel 13 report that broke the story.
The total cost of two planes flying to Washington will be half the amount that was spent to send a single plane for the prime minister on his last trip to Washington, the PMO claimed, though not explaining why the previous trip in January had been so expensive.
Asked how sending more planes would save money, a spokesperson for the prime minister said those not in Netanyahu’s entourage could take a cheaper flight, since they do not need extra security.
Netanyahu’s two sons, Yair and Avner, are also expected to join their parents on their private plane, according to Haaretz.
The two planes will leave Israel on Sunday evening and head back to the Jewish state from Washington on Tuesday afternoon.
Before news broke of the Netanyahus’ separate plane, Israeli press traveling to Washington to cover the story had already been told they would be required to present a negative coronavirus test before getting on the plane for the trip.
Reporters will also likely be required to take a second test upon landing in the US. During their stay, reporters will be barred from leaving the prime minister’s hotel, except possibly to cover the White House ceremony on Tuesday.
Any member of the Israeli press who comes in contact with someone from outside of their “capsule” will be removed from the delegation, Israeli officials said.