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Closure of Sde Dov Airport in Israel to Adversely Effect Arkia Airlines Service to Eilat

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Arkia Airlines planes at the Sde Dov airport. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Following in-depth discussions with Transportation Minister Bezalel Smotrich, legal advisers and professional elements, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday, June 30th, decided that there is no way to halt the evacuation of Sde Dov Airport in Tel Aviv. Any attempt to do so would cost the State of Israel billions of shekels and cause the state heavy damage, he added.

Back in the summer of 2005, the Globes business web site reported that brothers Avi, Joseph, and Ralph Nakash of the Jordache jeans brand had acquired the controlling interest in Arkia Airlines in Israel from its employees, in a deal that was worth an estimated $10 million. Above is a photo of Joe Nakash. Photo Credit: courtesy

At the same time, out of responsibility for the development of tourism and transportation to the southern resort city of Eilat, Prime Minister Netanyahu – in conjunction with Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon and Transportation Minister Smotrich, along with the approval of the Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit – directed that a NIS 400 million development plan be submitted to the Cabinet within three weeks. Finance Minister Kahlon and his staff promised to designate the budgetary source for the plan, according to sources close to the issue.

It was also decided that a ministerial team, to be chaired by Prime Minister Netanyahu, will verify implementation of the plan to develop Eilat.

The Ministers agreed on ensuring the continuity of air transportation to Eilat via Ben-Gurion International Airport at the same frequency that previously existed between Eilat and Sde Dov. After extensive discussions with the Minister of Transport, the legal advisors and the professionals, it was determined that there was no way to stop the closure of the Sde Dov airport.

According to a report in the Times of Israel, in recent weeks, protests mounted in Eilat and other locations against the Sde Dov closure, saying the decision to shutter the 81-year-old airport would damage the Eilat economy.

These decisions join a series of decisions and benefits formulated for the benefit of passengers and special incentives for doctors to work in Eilat.

Benefits for patients from Eilat who must travel to the center region to receive medical treatment will include funding for free taxi from Ben Gurion Airport to the hospital and back to the airport. Chronic patients – funding a complete coverage that will include costs of taxi from their homes to Ramon Airport, cost of the flight and taxi to the hospital and accommodation during their treatments.

The Times of Israel reported that the closure and the aid package were “slammed by Eilat Mayor Meir Yitzhak Halevi, who said he had to return home to a city of angry residents. Halevi said Netanyahu had promised a similar economic package in 2012 that had never been delivered.”

“Nobody is doing us any favors,” Halevi told Channel 12 news. “It’s a right that the government is obligated to give us” and not compensation for the airport closure.

“In the end, greed won out,” the mayor said, according to the TOI report, adding that he had quit Netanyahu’s Likud party because he could not face his electorate after the government failed to find a solution, despite promising to do so three years ago.

The Civil Aviation Authority of Israel said Terminal 1 at Ben Gurion International Airport had been prepared to absorb the flights to Eilat, in case Sde Dov does close, including an entire floor in the parking lot with some 400 spots reserved for passengers flying to Eilat, according to the Times of Israel report.

Back in the summer of 2005, the Globes business web site reported that brothers Avi, Joseph, and Ralph Nakash of the Jordache jeans brand had acquired the controlling interest in Arkia Airlines in Israel from its employees, in a deal that was worth an estimated $10 million. Following the deal, the Nakash brothers were in possession of 65% of Arkia Airlines.

As of 2005, it was reported that Arkia’s domestic routes are Rosh Pina-Haifa, Sde Dov-Eilat; Ben Gurion-Eilat, routes to Israel Air Force bases, and civilian transfers to the Uvda Air Force Base. Arkia’s regional destinations are Sharm el-Sheikh in Sinai, Amman, Jordan, Larnaca and Paphos in Cyprus, and periodic flights to Turkey and the Greek islands. Arkia has 23 other international destinations.

In 2005, Avi Nakash was quoted in Globes as saying that the acquisition of Arkia was another step in the group’s strategy to invest in Israel, and that it was a vote of confidence in the future of Israel’s tourism industry. He added that the group wanted to acquire full control of the plane leasing businesses from the Borovich brothers.

$55 million of Arkia’s $80 million in shareholders’ equity is derived from its plane leasing business, and only $25 million from its aviation business.

In April of 2019, it was reported that the Nakash brothers had expanded its activity in the hotel sector in Israel, according to a Globes report. Jordache will build Six new 5-star hotels under the Herbert Samuel, and Satai brands. The group hopes for 21 hotels portfolio in Israel by 2023.

Three new hotels will be added to Herbert Samuel brand. Milo Hotel at the Dead Sea opened in May, with 162 rooms. And two hotels in Tel Aviv. Opera Hotel will open in the first three floors of the Opera House, with 110 rooms, And a boutique hotel in heritage preservation building with 30 rooms.

Since the 1990s the Nakash brothers have entered into the Israeli market with various businesses including hotels, an International airline Arkia, Eilat Port, Ampa Real Estate, the Halutza oil company, and Prinir.

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