Israel’s ‘Air Force One’ is ready to fly, but will it be grounded by politics?

Dubbed “The Wing of Zion,” was intended to carry Israel’s prime minister and president on state visits.

By David Hellerman, World Israel News

After years of refurbishing complicated by political and budgetary wrangling, the official prime ministerial airplane has received a 12-month fit-to-fly approval, Globes reported on Tuesday. But it’s not clear if the refurbished aircraft, known as the Knaf Zion, or Wing of Zion, will ever carry an Israeli prime minister or president into the skies.

The plane was first ordered by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. It was expected to cost NIS 393 million ($115 million) to purchase the 20-year-old Boeing 767 passenger jet from Australia’s Qantas Airlines and upgrade it. But costs ballooned to around $300 million.

The plane’s critics, including Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, have described it as a wasteful use of taxpayer money and a symbol of Netanyahu’s vanity and want the aircraft sold. Others argue that an Israeli Air Force One is necessary to better facilitate and secure the travels of Israel’s top leaders.

Israeli presidents and prime ministers traveling on state visits currently fly on specially chartered El Al planes.

Whether the Wing of Zion will be used, sold or mothballed remains to be seen.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett will have the final say and he has not indicated whether he wants to bring the plane into service.

The Wing of Zion is currently kept at the Nevatim Air Base near Beer Sheva.