Israel's Northern Residents Protest Proposal for New International Airport

Transportation Ministry looking for additional international airport near Megiddo to accommodate five to eight million passengers a year.

A 130-vehicle motorcade in opposition to a proposal to build an international airport near Megiddo in the north made its way on Friday through the Jezreel Valley. The proposed airport would supplement Ben-Gurion International Airport.

The motorcade left the small existing airfield at Megiddo and made its way through Afula to Nahalal, Yokne'am and then back to Megiddo.

The Transportation Ministry is currently looking at options for an international airport that would accommodate five to eight million passengers a year and complement operations at Ben-Gurion. The only two locations under consideration are Megiddo and Nevatim, the site of an airbase southeast of Be'er Sheva.

Opponents of Megiddo as the site for the new airport have said they expect a final decision on the matter within the next two months.

airport - David Bachar - November 19 2010
David Bachar

Among the protesters Friday was environmental activist Azaria Alon, one of the founders of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, which organized Friday's motorcade. The Amakim and Merhavim environmental group and the Jezreel Valley and Megiddo regional councils also participated in the protest.

"Eighty communities in the Jezreel Valley will not agree to the establishment of an international airport at Megiddo," said Amakim and Merhavim chairman Michael Lipschitz, who added: "We call on the prime minister, the defense minister and the commander of the air force to actually respond to the request of communities in the south and build the airport at Netavim."

A new airport in the Negev would create jobs and provide momentum to the development the south, Lipschitz said.

Civil planning authorities and Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz appear to favor Netavim over Megiddo and have even publicly expressed support for the southern option. Katz cited economic considerations along with land-use factors in support of Nevatim along with the opposition of Megiddo-area residents to the northern option.

Environmental groups have also expressed support for Netavim, but the army has strenuously objected to an international airport there.