Jerusalem24 – A week after the Israeli municipality green-lit what is described as a new eastern neighborhood, on lands located North of Jerusalem and South of Ramallah, Israeli Regional Cooperation Minister Issawi Frej is proposing the construction of an airport nearby.
The airfield will be the first to have joint Israeli-Palestinian ownership. The site of the airport, which is near the Qalandiya refugee camp and the Palestinian neighborhood of Kufr Aqab, used to have an airport during the days of the British mandate.
According to Frej, “Israel’s aviation needs are increasing with Ben Gurion Airport close to its capacity limitations. Atarot must be utilized and reopened as a joint Israeli-Palestinian airport.” He added that, “the reconstruction of the airfield and its opening will both address the aviation needs of the Jerusalem metropolitan area and also address the need of the residents of the Palestinian Authority for an air entry and exit gate.”
According to the minister’s plan, the airport will be rebuilt and a Palestinian terminal will be built next to it. Subject to security arrangements, it will allow residents of the Palestinian Authority to fly directly from Jerusalem to various destinations around the world.
Frej believes that the airport could serve as many as 5 million passengers annually and will be a boon for the Israeli economy as a whole and Jerusalem’s economy in particular.
In the 1970s and early 1980s, Israel invested considerable resources in upgrading the airport and creating the infrastructure for a full-fledged international airport but the international aviation authorities, bearing in mind that the airport was in lands captured in 1967 by Israel, would not allow international flights to land there.
As such the airport was only used for domestic flights and charter flights.
During the Second Intifada, the airport was closed to civilian air traffic in October 2000 and by July 2001 it was formally handed over to the Israel Military.