Benjamin Netanyahu Wants Spiffier Private Plane for Overseas Trip

$127K 'Sleep Chamber' Not Enough for Premier


By Jeffrey Heller

Published May 05, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, complaining he has to rely on “some antenna they stick on a window”, says he lacks reliable and encrypted communications on the chartered aircraft that fly him on visits overseas.

The disclosure, by the leader of a country with deep security concerns, appeared in a report on Sunday by a government-appointed panel that examined whether an official plane should be bought for the prime minister and President Shimon Peres.

It recommended the state purchase a used aircraft and equip it with secure communications and anti-missile countermeasures.

After an ageing air force Boeing 707 was retired in 2001, Israel’s prime ministers have chartered aircraft from national commercial carriers for official trips abroad, including 12-hour flights to the United States, a main destination.

“All of those (who testified) pointed to the gravity of the situation, in which the prime minister does not have constant satellite communications for the duration of the flight, which can take many hours on trans-Atlantic routes,” the committee said, after hearing Netanyahu and top security chiefs.

“Communications, when they are available, are not encrypted,” it added.

Netanyahu, in his remarks to the panel, complained about how it was “inconceivable” that “the supreme leadership of the State of Israel is put into a can” that has no protection or proper communications.

“There is communication, when they stick some antenna on a window,” it quoted the Israeli leader as saying.

Reporters who have flown on Netanyahu’s plane have on at least one occasion seen an aide walk back into the press section, cradle a hand-held satellite phone next to a seat window, make a call and ask about the latest news in Israel.

Shin Bet chief Yoram Cohen told the committee that sometimes his agency “had sensitive intelligence it wanted to convey to (Netanyahu) … but the prime minister is unable to receive classified information during a flight”.

Tamir Pardo, who heads the Mossad, complained: “You try to jerry-rig something in the cockpit - to improvise something that is completely idiotic”.

The committee estimated that a used long-range plane could be bought for about $70 million, including the cost of special communications and anti-missile equipment.

Charter flights for Netanyahu’s overseas visits and first-class tickets for Peres, who usually flies regular commercial routes, cost the Israeli taxpayer $4 million last year, the committee said.

Netanyahu, who visited Washington and Los Angeles in March and flies to Japan for an official visit later this month, has been pushing for the purchase of an aircraft, arguing it would be cost-effective.

His travel has drawn the most scrutiny among Israelis, who bridled over $127,000 in taxpayer money - tagged onto a $300,000 charter bill - paid to El Al airlines to build a bedroom for Netanyahu and his wife for a 5-hour flight to London last year.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • The Workmen's Circle is hosting New York’s first Jewish street fair on Sunday. Bring on the nouveau deli!
  • Novelist Sayed Kashua finds it hard to write about the heartbreak of Gaza from the plush confines of Debra Winger's Manhattan pad. Tough to argue with that, whichever side of the conflict you are on.
  • "I’ve never bought illegal drugs, but I imagine a small-time drug deal to feel a bit like buying hummus underground in Brooklyn."
  • We try to show things that get less exposed to the public here. We don’t look to document things that are nice or that people would like. We don’t try to show this place as a beautiful place.”
  • A new Gallup poll shows that only 25% of Americans under 35 support the war in #Gaza. Does this statistic worry you?
  • “You will stomp us into the dirt,” is how her mother responded to Anya Ulinich’s new tragicomic graphic novel. Paul Berger has a more open view of ‘Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: Hundreds of protesters marched through lower Manhattan yesterday demanding an end to American support for Israel’s operation in #Gaza.
  • Does #Hamas have to lose for there to be peace? Read the latest analysis by J.J. Goldberg.
  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.