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FAA Lifts Israel Flight Ban After Cruz Protest

FAA Lifts Israel Flight Ban After Cruz Protest
July 24, 2014

Following protests by Senator Ted Cruz and former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the Federal Aviation Administration has lifted its restrictions on U.S. airline flights into and out of Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv, the agency said in a statement.

The FAA first grounded flights to and from Israel Tuesday, July 22, then extended them 24 hours. The FAA instituted the flight prohibition in response to a Hamas rocket that landed approximately one mile from the airport.

FAA Lifts Israel Flight Ban After Cruz Protest

Senator Cruz (R-TX) said he would hold all State Department nominees until the Obama Administration answered “questions about its unprecedented decision to cancel flights to Israel, while at the same time announcing continuing aid that will be funneled to the terrorist organization, Hamas.”

Cruz had questioned whether the FAA’s decision to ban all U.S. flights to Israel amounted to an economic boycott of the nation, posing 5 questions.  A State Department spokesperson said called the questions “offensive and ridiculous.”

“Serious questions were asked about the nature of a decision that handed Hamas a public relations victory and will cost Israel billions of dollars,” said Sen. Cruz. “The only thing ‘offensive’ about this situation is how the Obama Administration is spurning our allies to embolden our enemies; the only thing ‘ridiculous’ is the administration’s response to basic questions. Until the State Department answers my questions, I will hold all State Department nominees.”

The five questions Sen. Cruz posed:

  • Was this a political decision driven by the White House?
  • If the FAA’s decision was based on airline safety, why was Israel singled out when flights would be permitted into Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen?
  • What was the FAA’s ‘safety’ analysis that led to prohibiting flights to Israel, while still permitting flights to Ukraine—where a commercial airline flight was just shot down with a BUK missile?
  • What specific communications occurred between the FAA and the White House?
  • Was this a safety issue, or was it using a federal regulatory agency to punish Israel to try to force them to comply with Secretary Kerry’s demand that Israel stop their military effort to take out Hamas’s rocket capacity?

Administration critic and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich wrote of the grounding that

The decision can only be interpreted as a willful attack by the United States [on] one of its closest allies at a time of great crisis. It was clearly deliberate. If the restriction had been an accident—an unfortunate mistake by some bumbling bureaucrat at the FAA— the President could simply have reversed it when he found out about it.

Given the circumstances, it is impossible to believe the cessation of flights was not a deliberate act on the part of the Obama administration to undermine Israel and bully it into accepting the “ceasefire” President Obama and Secretary Kerry desperately want.

NBC News noted that Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg had also protested the FAA decision, although he did not ascribe responsibility to Obama. On Wednesday, Bloomberg flew to Israel from New York to “show solidarity with the Israeli people and to demonstrate that it is safe to fly in and out of Israel.”

“The flight restrictions are a mistake that hand Hamas an undeserved victory and should be lifted immediately,” he said.

The FAA said in its statement that the move was all about safety, though it did not address the issue of flights open to other dangerous destinations, such as Ukraine and Baghdad.

Before making this decision, the FAA worked with its U.S. government counterparts to assess the security situation in Israel and carefully reviewed both significant new information and measures the Government of Israel is taking to mitigate potential risks to civil aviation.

The FAA’s primary mission and interest are the protection of people traveling on U.S. airlines. The agency will continue to closely monitor the very fluid situation around Ben Gurion Airport and will take additional actions, as necessary.

FAA Lifts Israel Flight Ban After Cruz Protest