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Report: ‘Israel’s Air Force One’ has effectively been grounded by new PM

Concerned with its wasteful image, neither Bennett nor President Herzog said planning to use the jet that cost hundreds of millions of dollars to prepare

The 'Wing of Zion,' the Israeli version of Air Force One, is seen above Ben Gurion Airport, on its first test flight, November 3, 2019. (Yoav Weiss/Israel Aerospace Industries)
The 'Wing of Zion,' the Israeli version of Air Force One, is seen above Ben Gurion Airport, on its first test flight, November 3, 2019. (Yoav Weiss/Israel Aerospace Industries)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has no plans to use Israel’s version of Air Force One when he travels to New York to speak to the UN General Assembly next week, Channel 12 news reported Friday.

In fact, the network said, without citing sources, it is doubtful that the premiere or the president will employ the never-yet-used specially converted jet at all, concerned over the wasteful image surrounding the plane.

The approval and preparation of the Wing of Zion aircraft over several years, to the tune of nearly $300 million, was seen as a project pushed by former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. It was to be used by Israeli heads of state for official business.

Proponents said it was crucial to securely transporting Israel’s top public figures, while critics claimed it was little more than a vanity venture by a premier seeking to boost the optics of his trips abroad.

Now, with Netanyahu out of office, his successors are apparently loath to use the costly aircraft.

According to a July report on Ynet, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid is in fact pushing to sell Wing of Zion.

The report said the defense establishment strongly opposes Lapid’s position, maintaining that an upgraded aircraft such as the one produced is important.

The project was delayed several times, most recently last year when then-prime minister Netanyahu’s office ordered a freezing of test flights, in order to prevent the appearance of unnecessary spending in the middle of the pandemic.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid arrives in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, June 29, 2021. (Shlomi Amsalem/GPO)

Last February, Wing of Zion successfully completed a test run, passing a major hurdle on the path to becoming operational.

The plane will be housed in a specially constructed hangar at the Nevatim airbase and will have 24-hour protection by guards from the Prime Minister’s Office.

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