Critics charge that the decision to close the airport will come at the expense of the health of Eilat residents, who will depend on the flights for medical services in central Israel. The nearest major city to Eilat, which sits at Israel's southermost point on the Red Sea, is Be'er Sheva, some 200km away.
But senior PMO officials apparently decided that the gloves are coming off, and Wednesday attacked the campaign to stop the closure of the small airport, saying that Eilat's woes were due to "bad management as well as expensive and dirty hotels."
"The campaign is making false claims, as if closing the airport is going to hurt sick Eilat residents," said senior PMO officials.
The PMO emphasized that Ben-Gurion Airport is prepared to receive all the flights from Eilat, saying: "The prime minister received all the necessary evaluations, from the Ministry of Defense, from the army, from the Airports Authority, and from the Treasury, and he isn't going to stop the process. The airport is going to close on the first of July and nothing is going to change that."
They added: "We will pay for patients' transportation from Ben-Gurion Airport to the hospitals. What's the difference between getting to Ichilov Hospital (in Tel Aviv) or Beilinson Hospital (in Petah Tikva) from Ben-Gurion or Sde Dov?
"And now they will have free transportation. Starting on the first of July, every patient who arrives at Ben-Gurion will have a free taxi ride from the airport to the hospital and back."
The officials continued: "They tell us that Eilat's problem is the closure of Sde Dov Airport. That's a lie. Eilat's problem is bad management as well as dirty hotels with high prices. That's what tourism officials told us.
"We must close Sde Dov Airport on the first of July, and if the closure is delayed, the fines which the state will have to pay to the landlords will cost billions of shekels."
In the last few days, Eilat residents have been placing pressure on Yoav Horowitz, the prime minister's outgoing chief of staff, as well as on other senior PMO officials, flooding them with scornful texts and warnings that Likud voters in the city will not vote for Netanyahu in the September 17 elections.
"After all, the state is not an endless reserve of cash," said the officials. "The price for delaying the airport's closure will either raise the deficit, or it will come at the expense of the additional budget that (United Torah Judaism Party Leader Yaakov) Litzman wants for the Health Ministry to fund hospitals, or at the expense the Iron Dome Missile Defense System and the strengthening of the IDF."
On Wednesday, the mayors of Eilat and Tel Aviv warned against closing the airport, along with the head of Yoseftal Hospital in Eilat, raising the specter of hurting the city's residents, with the slogan "Netanyahu, don't cut off Eilat's oxygen supply."
"Every year there are 70 thousand medical flights with patients who require tests and treatment in the laboratories and hospitals in central Israel. Why are we in such a hurry to give up on that? For a fistful of dollars," said Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai.
Eilat Mayor Yitzhak Halevi, said: "The planes are buses with wings for Eilat residents. That's the airport that brings the doctors to treat the residents of Eilat, and that receives the many patients. Every day, 150 patients use Sde Dov Airport to receive medical services. We have 80 thousand spots every year for patients, and they want to cut that off. They want to kill the sick residents of Eilat city."
The director of Yoseftal Hospital, Dr. Eldar Berkowitz said: "Half of Eilat's medical personnel arrives to Eilat by plane, and they warned that they wouldn't come if the trip time doubled, and they would avoid the trip and they will work in other places.
"There's no alternative for this thing, and we have no way to make up this shortfall. There's also dozens of people who leave from Eilat every day to get treatment in central Israel, treatment that isn't available in Eilat.
"These are fragile people and patients who today spend four hours on the trip (from Eilat to central Israel) to get treatments of half an hour to an hour. The doubling of the trip time will cause a not insignificant part of them to avoid this trip, and now there's a danger to human life."