Imagine what would have happened had someone proposed building a new airport on the banks of the Yarkon River. The opposition would already have been universal at the preliminary stages.
A glance at the rest of the world shows that in another "small" city - London - there is just such an airport in the crowded part of town on the banks of the Thames River. This airport is not being reduced or closed; it is becoming more and more active, together with the large international airports on the edge of the city. In another "small" city on the other side of the ocean - Toronto - there is a municipal airport that is constantly expanding and improving. The rest of the world realizes that an airport in the heart of the municipal fabric used mainly for internal flights is essential transportation infrastructure. It bridges differences in time and distance, and enables passengers to travel quickly within the country, and even from neighboring countries, directly to the centers of business, health, education, and culture. This makes an essential contribution to development and growth and, of course, to narrowing social gaps between the outlying areas and the center of the country.
Like seaports in the 18th century, railway stations in the 19th century, and high-speed roads in the 20th century, in the 21st century, when humanity is crowded into city centers, when technology makes possible comfortable, quiet, and cheap flights, and when other means of transportation are becoming more and more overloaded, no one is considering moving an airport away from the center of the city - on the contrary.
Israel has such an airport several hundred meters from the banks of the Yarkon River: Sde Dov Airport, named after Dov Hoz, which serves one million passengers a year and serves as an internal aviation center in Israel and a source of oxygen for Eilat. Anywhere else in the world, it would be regarded as a national asset. It would be developed in order to adapt it to the dynamic needs. In Israel, however, the government continues to stride blindly towards Sde Dov's closure. Nothing is being done from a comprehensive transportation perspective or as part of a strategic aviation plan. The shortsighted government is acting in opposition to professional recommendations , and is surrendering to individual dictates and interests.
In the transportation situation prevailing in Israel, any Israeli stuck in innumerable traffic jams now understands the significance of many years of inadequate investment and lack of infrastructure development for public transportation. As I have warned many times before, the situation will worsen in the coming years. The Israeli government's lack of action and shortsightedness have left us an entire generation behind the rest of the world in this sphere, and it will be very difficult to catch up in the future.
In view of this situation, closing down Sde Dov Airport is even worse. Not only is the Israeli government not developing proper aviation infrastructure for the future, but it is deliberately eliminating existing infrastructure. The government is thereby putting us back many years and destroying internal aviation in Israel. And what will happen to residents of Eilat?
20 years ago, we proposed preparing ahead of time by building an alternative airport on an artificial island. Years have passed, and nothing has been done. They also dragged their feet with respect to the private landowners, and in the end, the legal proceedings taken are supposedly forcing the state to evacuate the airport.
The public should know that this idiocy can still be stopped. A practical planning alternative, which we proposed two years ago, has been submitted to the prime minister and the other ministers. According to this alternative, the airport can still be operated, while reducing its area. Enough construction can be carried in the evacuated area, including the military airport, to compensate the private landowners. At the same time, an alternative can be prepared on an artificial island or elsewhere, and when it goes into operation, the rest of the land occupied by Sde Dov Airport will be made available, and the state can exercise its rights.
I appeal to the prime minister, the other ministers, the MKs, and anyone able to exert influence: show public responsibility for the coming generations, rise above momentary benefit, and make the necessary decision, before it is too late.
The writer is the mayor of Tel Aviv.
Published by Globes [online], Israel Business News - www.globes-online.com - on January 31, 2018
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