Israel to Reap Benefits from Voa Station in Arava

Israel will eventually own the Voice of America radio transmitter the United States is building in the Arava region of the Negev.

Under the agreement with the United States, formally endorsed by the Cabinet on Aug. 3, 1986, the facility will revert to Israeli ownership 25 years after it goes into operation, at no cost to Israel.

But Israel will reap economic advantages long before then. The transmitter will be completed within four to five years, Communications Minister Gad Yaacobi told the Cabinet Sunday.

During this time, the United States will invest approximately $300 million in the project. Under the agreement with Washington, half that amount must be spent on local purchases of equipment and jobs for Israeli workers.

The VOA transmitter, intended for broadcasts to the Soviet Union and Eastern bloc countries, will consist of 16 antenna towers, each over 700 feet high. Its location in Israel will make the broadcasts less prone to jamming than VOA transmissions from Europe.

The project, which Israel joined at the request of the Reagan administration, generated considerable controversy here. Conservationists worried about its ecological effects on the Arava, a desert region along the Jordanian border extending roughly from the southern tip of the Dead Sea to Eilat.

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