That the Israeli government is renovating a new Air Force 1 which will jet the prime minister and president around the world on their travels is no secret. But virtually everything else about the project appears to be. A security gag order has been slapped on the project. But as usual, we are here to demystify such things. Let’s start with an NRG report on the project which summarizes both what is known and what it is forbidden to know:
It’s been years since a mysterious cloak has enveloped, for security reasons of course (!), details regarding the new Israeli Air Force 1…
A picture of the plane’s been published, though from afar and pixellated, as it was parked next to a hangar somewhere in “the center of the country.” It is being renovated for its new role in the coming year. The censor prohibits most details about the plane, even though it’s existence has been reported in recent days in virtually every international aviation publication.
We know that the plane is a regular civilian model which tens of thousands of Israeli fly from airports around the world.
Here are further details which we’re permitted to publish:
It’s been leased from a foreign company and is 20-odd years old.
For the past year, it’s been outfitted with special systems including communications, self-defense, and others which would enable the prime minister to fulfill his role fully while in the air.
The interior will be renovated in a luxurious manner befitting a VIP residence.
The plane will include meeting rooms and rest areas.
Besides VIPs and family, there will be room for 100 more passengers.
What we can’t report:
The type of plane
The contractual details with the foreign leasing company.
The identity of the company performing the renovation.
Enumerate the specialized equipment with which the prime minister’s plane is being retrofitted.
The financial particulars: lease, renovation and maintenance costs.
But one thing is for certain: just as in other matters, the day is not far off when all the details regarding the plane will be reported somewhere in the world media
Break the Gag
Never fear, that day is upon us. An Israeli source has resolved a few of the mysteries. The plane is a Boeing 767-300ER. The retrofitting upgrade is being performed by Israel Aircraft Industries, one of Israel’s major aviation defense contractors. Contrary to what’s reported above, Ynet has estimated the cost of purchasing the plane at $70-million. Retrofitting it will cost another $40-million and regular maintenance will cost $30-million. That comes out to a cool $140-million.
Note the veiled sarcastic tone of the above passage when it says details are being censored “certainly” for security reasons. This wink-wink, nudge-nudge approach alludes to the real reason for the secrecy. It’s not to maintain the security of the plane or the retrofitting project. Nor to conceal the high tech gear or self-defense systems being installed. It’s to protect the profligate prime minister from having another one of his boondoggle projects exposed to the public.
A year ago or so Sarah Netanyahu became so disgusted with the shabby sleepy arrangements aboard the current Israeli Air Force One (a ‘mere’ Boeing 707) that she spent $130,000 to build a and install new bed. The public whistled and howled in derision. I have little doubt that Sarah is the chief instigator of this project as well. It’s become a tribute to her vanity. She acts more like a spoiled Roman emperor’s wife than a simple Israeli politician’s spouse. If this were those ancient days, I have little doubt that those who cross her would end up facing the lions at the Roman circus.
Ynet also reports that Netanyahu has decreed a new prime minister’s residence must be built as his current one appears too rundown and shabby. Cost for this little project: $175-million!
The claim by the prime minister that the president will also get to use it is a smokescreen that’s meant to soften the blow. Pres. Rivlin has never complained about his current air transport. He’s never so much as asked for a new chair, let alone a new bed or plane.
Many politicians who serve their countries over long periods seek to leave a legacy for their nation. Some build transport networks or new cities. Others build palaces, fleets or armies to protect the country. What will Bibi leave? Some beat up furniture, a gleaming villa in Jerusalem befitting an emperor, and an aerial boondoggle.