Israel’s Ministry of Transportation (MOT) on Tuesday unveiled a new fleet that will be used for tourism purposes in Israel, with the first fleet of high-end luxury SUV vehicles scheduled to be delivered in the next three years.
The announcement by the ministry came amid heightened diplomatic tensions between Israel and the United States over the deployment of the controversial Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system on the Palestinian side of the border.
Israel’s ambassador to Washington, Ron Dermer, has called the deployment a violation of international law, a charge that has drawn strong condemnation from US President Donald Trump.
Last month, the US State Department warned Israel against the deployment, citing “potential for further deterioration of the security situation in the region” and warned that the United Nations Security Council “should exercise its appropriate diplomatic and political influence” to halt it.
But in a speech at a luxury resort in the Israeli city of Ashdod on Tuesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the new fleet would not be used to combat the growing threat posed by the US-made missile defense system.
“We are not afraid of the missile defense,” Netanyahu said.
“We are using the system for tourism.
We are not a target.”
The ministry said the vehicles, which will be built in Israel and be delivered by private companies, will be marketed as part of a strategy to expand Israel’s tourism sector.
“It is designed for the tourism industry, and we hope that by the end of the decade it will be available for use by people from all walks of life,” the ministry said in a statement.
“This is a huge boost to our tourism industry.”
The vehicles, the first of which will come into service in 2020, will feature a distinctive design reminiscent of the Rolls-Royce Phantom, which was first introduced in 1948 and which has been used extensively for military use.
Israel has been building a fleet of SUVs and light trucks to combat a growing threat to its economy.
The ministry announced the first four vehicles, including a sports utility vehicle (SUV) and an SUV, would be delivered to the Israeli Air Force by 2021, while another four SUVs, four sports utility vehicles (SUVs), two utility vehicles and two sport utility vehicles would be built by 2021.
The first batch of luxury vehicles will have a gross weight of around 2,000 kilograms (5,300 pounds), and the ministry expects the new vehicles will be able to transport up to 5,000 people.