Sde Dov slated to close Monday, strikes on the way?

Dismantling the airport will take 4-5 months, with the outline construction plan due to come into force by October.

June 30, 2019 00:35
2 minute read.
Tel Aviv’s Dov Hoz airport.

Sde Dov Dov Hoz Airport NEW PLANS FOR HOUSING . (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Histadrut labor federation leaders met Saturday night to consider last-gap measures, including a possible general strike, to prevent the closure of Sde Dov Airport on Monday.

The High Court of Justice set the closure date for the northern Tel Aviv airport a year ago in response to an appeal to overturn the decision of turning the compound into a massive housing site.

Only Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu can make the decision to delay the closure.

An intense campaign led by Eilat Mayor Meir Yitzhak-Halevi, the city’s hoteliers, and the Joseftal Hospital has been incessantly aiming to defer the airport’s closure, which will leave Ben-Gurion Airport – 20 km. southeast of Tel Aviv – as the only domestic origin for Eilat-bound flights.

They claim that the change would have a devastating impact on tourism to the Red Sea resort city. The closure would also impact Eilat residents who regularly travel to Tel Aviv for cancer treatments at hospitals in the city’s metropolitan area.

Contractors are planning to build 16,000 housing units on the airport grounds. It is estimated that another 14,000 units will be built north of the airport up to the border with Herzliya. Seventy percent of the general area of the airport belongs to the state and is slated for construction of affordable housing, commercial buildings, and hotels.

Dismantling the airport will take four to five months with the outlined construction plan due to come into force by October.
The Tel Aviv-Jaffa Municipality has also come out against the plan.

“The closure of Sde Dov without a suitable alternative will lead to the destruction of domestic civil aviation in the State of Israel, and severely damage metropolitan Tel Aviv-Jaffa and the cities of the periphery,” it said in a written statement. “Ben-Gurion [Airport] does not provide a suitable alternative to Sde Dov, according to all professionals dealing with the matter.”
According to Liat Agassi, the Eilat Municipal Company for Tourism’s marketing manager, tourism to Eilat has already dropped 30% since the opening of Ramon Airport 15 km. outside the city.

“I’m scared it will not be a 30% drop in tourists but a 70% one,” she said. “We expect a lot of people to simply not come to Eilat.”

Agassi is not opposed to Sde Dov eventually closing, but said the government first needs to invest in additional infrastructure.
“My hope is that the prime minister and everyone will understand that they should close Sde Dov, but not now,” she said. “They should close it but give us another alternative, like fixing Route 90 [the main road link to Eilat] to make it safer.”

Sde Dov has been operational for 60 years for commercial and military service. Tel Aviv mayor Israel Rokach enacted the construction of the airport after permission was granted from British Mandate authorities in 1937 as a means of flying to Haifa during the Arab revolt, when travel through Arab territories was too dangerous for Jews.

After the War of Independence, the IDF began using Sde Dov for regular military operations and it soon became available for commercial domestic flights.

Named after Dov Hoz, a founding member of the Hagana and CEO of Aviron Aviation Company, the airport has serviced hundreds of thousands of passengers in recent years and is responsible for thousands of domestic and international flights, servicing passengers on flights to Ramon, Rosh Pina, and Paphos in Cyprus.

David Dimolfetta and Globes contributed to this report.

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