(photo credit: Associated Press)
The cabinet will vote this Sunday on building the proposed international airport
just north of Eilat in the Timna Valley, the Prime Minister’s Office announced
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Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu made the announcement at a
meeting of the Ministerial Committee on the Development of Eilat, which he
At the meeting, plans were unveiled to convert the port of Eilat
and the southern coastal strip into an area for further hotel construction, his
office said in a statement.
The prime minister also directed attention to accelerating the construction of
the fence along the border with Egypt, in order to reduce illegal infiltration,
the statement said.
If approved, the Timna airport is expected to replace
the current one in the city of Eilat and will shuttle in European tourists
directly to Israel’s south without a stop at Ben- Gurion.
the new airport, to be named after astronaut Col. Ilan Ramon, will help
strengthen the region’s economy, the prime minister’s office said.
green activists and residents said they favored construction of an airport at
“That airport is a good thing in my mind,” Green Movement
co-chairman Prof. Alon Tal of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev told The
on Monday evening. “The existing airport in Eilat is an
The current airport, Tal said, is a harbor of air
pollution and noise and is “an accident waiting to happen,” as flights land
right next to adjacent hotels.
“It creates a divide between the city and
the tourism on the other side of the airport – the tourists never venture into
the city,” he added.
Tal said he had been involved in the original fight
about the airport’s relocation about a decade ago, when the airport was slated
to move to Ein Avrona, a nature reserve replete with gazelles and the highest
concentration of acacia trees in Israel.
“We had a huge campaign with the
Arava Institute and the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel involved,
and environmentalists from Jordan,” Tal said. “Eventually [Amnon Lipkin-]
Shakak, then-minister of transportation, asked, ‘Where do you want it?’”
Collectively, the groups decided on Timna, as the area is already damaged from
all the copper mining performed there, according to Tal.
The decision was
made about six or seven years ago now, after a local committee reviewed a group
of four options, Eilot Region chairman Udi Gat said.
“It’s the right
place because it’s an empty place – there are no trees, no animals,” Gat said.
“It’s a good decision to take it out of the city.”
Tal agreed. “It’s
better to have it there,” he said. “The Green Movement says that this is an
important development for the city of Eilat – to get the airport out of the
city, bring the airport to a safer environment and use it to leverage
restoration of a contaminated area.”
Gat was also pleased about the new
international airport because he felt it would place Eilat and Eilot more “in
the center of the tourist map.
“Big planes, small planes from all over
the world will be able to land directly in this airport,” he said.