Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the Finance Ministry on Monday to appropriate funds for fitting Israeli passenger planes with a system designed to counter surface-to-air missiles. The decision ends a long-standing dispute between the ministry and air carriers over who would shoulder the costs of the defense system, developed in the wake of a failed 2002 terrorist attack.
On Nov. 28, 2002, Islamic terrorists fired two surface-to-air missiles at an Israeli plane that had just taken off from an airport in Mombasa, Kenya, part of two connected terror attacks against Israelis that rocked the African nation that day. The rockets narrowly missed the plane and exploded prematurely, averting what would have been one of the deadliest terrorist attacks against Israelis in history. One of the perpetrators of the attack, linked to al-Qaida, was recently killed by U.S. forces.
The Finance Ministry had initially blocked the funding for the missile defense system, but on Sunday the Security-Political Cabinet approved Netanyahu's decision. It is now headed for approval by the entire cabinet.
On Monday the Transportation and Road Safety Ministry dismissed reports that it played a role in the delay. In a statement released by the ministry, it denied it was involved in any dispute on the matter that would have prevented or stalled the development of the system. "On the contrary – upon entering office, Transportation and Road Safety Minister Yisrael Katz has been promoting this issue and has held several discussions on the matter to help see this project realized," read the press release.
"In light of the dispute that had emerged between El Al [Israel's largest air carrier] and the Finance Ministry over who would fund the project, which prevented its implementation, Minister Katz decided it should be sent to the prime minister for his decision. A decision was made to have the state fund this important system. As this decision had not been followed through, Minister Katz did not relent and asked his ministry to have it introduced as a government resolution for the cabinet to vote on," said the statement.