The shocking and outrageous announcement by the FAA that it was instituting a ban on flying in or out of Ben Gurion Airport for 24 hours sounds like nothing so much as a not-so-subtle Mafia threat, as if they were saying “Nice little airport you got there. Shame if something happened to your burgeoning tourist industry. Just sign on the dotted line right here and we’ll make it all go away”.
I wasn’t sure if I was being paranoid – after all, a rocket or debris did fall on a house in Yehud and partially destroy it, and Yehud is but a few kilometers from the airport. However, rockets have been falling on the center of Israel for almost 3 weeks now – so why now?
Using the downing of the Malaysian airliner over Ukraine also doesn’t wash. That was brought down apparently by a surface-to-air missile whereas the house in Yehud was hit by a surface to surface rocket. Yes, it might hit a plane as it takes off or lands, but the chances of that are close to zero. As I said above, rockets have been flying at the Tel Aviv region for nearly 3 weeks now; in Pillar of Defence rockets were similarly shot at Tel Aviv, and the airport was not closed by anyone outside of Israel.
The well-known influential writer J.E. Dyer puts this case much better than me. With a snarky headline she writes “Finally, Obama leads from the front: The Hamas-FAA move against Ben Gurion“. Here’s an extensive excerpt from the article (emphases are mine) but read the whole thing:
For whatever reason, the Obama administration wasn’t willing to wait and lead from behind on this one. Within hours of a Hamas rocket landing near Ben Gurion airport – for the first time in the current conflict – the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued an order banning U.S. carriers from operating there. As many readers will have heard, a Delta Airlines flight headed for Ben Gurion on Tuesday had to turn around over the Mediterranean and divert to Paris.
The ban is in effect for 24 hours, starting at 12:15 EDT on the 22nd. The ban will be revisited at the end of the 24 hours (which at this point is about 10 hours from now).
A number of European nations have followed suit.
An unjustified political action
Pundits and other advocates have been swift to condemn this U.S. action, a serious measure of economic isolation which will deny Israel millions of dollars in commercial revenues even if it lasts only 24 hours. Eugene Kontorovich points out that the message is prejudicial and the timing is suspicious, with John Kerry heading for Israel to try to broker a ceasefire.
The subtext here is that Israel has a sword at its neck: face a private-sector no-fly zone or agree to a cease-fire that lets Hamas keep its rockets, and thus close Ben Gurion Airport again at the time of its choosing. It is a lose-lose proposition. …
Moreover, the timing of the FAA’s absurd and unjustified warning seems to have more to do with Kerry’s visit to the region to impose a cease-fire on Israel. Until his administration’s flight ban, that effort seemed entirely futile.
The message is unsubtle. “Nice commercial hub you got, there, Bibi. Be a shame if anything happened to it.”I would cite the example of Pakistan, where there have been multiple, very serious attacks on commercial airports in recent months, including an attack on an airliner in Peshawar, this one on the airport in Karachi, and an earlier one involving Taliban rocket fire in Peshawar. In terms of the type of threat posed, the Pakistan Taliban is a fairly exact analogy to what Hamas can threaten Ben Gurion in Lod, Israel with – except that Israel does a much better job of securing Ben Gurion against the Hamas threat. In none of the instances in Pakistan has the FAA banned U.S. carriers from flying in and out of the Pakistani airports. At most, it has issued safety warnings.[…]
Ordinarily – as with Pakistan – the U.S. would take such things into account and avoid issuing flight bans against an ally’s airport. As an “abundance of caution,” the flight ban on Ben Gurion is a psychotic one in comparison with the FAA’s use of its judgment elsewhere. See the Special Notices here for the FAA’s ongoing warnings for U.S. carriers about air space in Ukraine, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and North Korea. And note that in spite of the much greater potential threat to commercial aircraft in Syria and Iraq (for example) than in Israel, the prohibitions for U.S. carriers are not absolute in either nation.
The prohibition on Ben Gurion is uniquely stringent, and inconsistent with FAA practices elsewhere. It also had to be approved by Obama. Israel is an ally, one of America’s closest partners in the world. Cutting off her commercial airport from U.S. carriers is inherently a presidential-level decision, and Obama is responsible whether he made it or not.
…Gatestone Institute suggests that the Hamas-FAA move against Ben Gurion – my formulation; that’s essentially what it is – has effectively eliminated any viable “two-state solution.” Israel can’t tolerate the existence of a neighboring state that can hold the life’s blood of her economy at risk whenever it wishes – especially if Israel’s own chief ally doesn’t back Israel’s interests up, but instead throws in with her enemies.…Ironically for Obama and Kerry, however, what their little Hamas-FAA gambit has done is liberate Israel from the constraints of the Oslo mindset. Whatever the ceasefire arrangement is, it will be temporary. And everyone except Barack Obama and John Kerry will understand that Israel – along with all the other parties – will develop a new goal and a new strategy coming out of this conflict. The likelihood is much stronger than it was three weeks ago that that new goal will not involve a “two-state solution.”
J.E. Dyer is not the only one suspicious about the Americans’ motive:
But is this really just a safety question? Via Israel Matzav:
WorldNetDaily’s Aaron Klein argues that it may not be.
Behind the scenes, several Jerusalem diplomats who spoke on condition of anonymity questioned whether the FAA flight-ban was in part a tactic to press Israel into a truce with Hamas. A cease-fire would tentatively stop Hamas’ rocketing of the Jewish state.
Kerry is currently in Egypt in an attempt to negotiate a truce.
State Department Deputy Spokeswoman Marie Harf suggested to reporters Tuesday that Kerry may stay in the Middle East until progress is made toward a cease-fire.
Except that the last three ‘cease fires’ did not stop Hamas’ rockets, and it’s Hamas that is unwilling to accept an unconditional cease fire (which Israelis are quite pleased about, but that’s a separate story).
All is not lost however. Former NY Mayor Bloomberg is flying to Israel on El Al on a solidarity mission:
US billionaire Michael Bloomberg announced Tuesday he was jetting into Tel Aviv to show solidarity with Israel, calling for a US flight ban to be lifted immediately.
Bloomberg urged the US Federal Aviation Administration to reverse the ban, saying it had handed Hamas an “undeserved victory” in a more than two-week conflict with Israel.
He announced in a statement via his official Twitter account that he was boarding an Israeli airlines flight.
“This evening I will be flying on El Al to Tel Aviv to show solidarity with the Israeli people and to demonstrate that it is safe to fly in and out of Israel,” he wrote.
He called Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion the “best protected airport in the world” where El Al flights had continued safely despite the European and North American hiatus.
“The flight restrictions are a mistake that hands Hamas an undeserved victory and should be lifted immediately.
The Transportation Ministry announces that foreign carriers concerned about the security situation may land and depart from the Ovda airport located some 60 kilometers (40 miles) north of Eilat, beginning at noon.
Transportation Minister Israel Katz calls the FAA decision to ground flights “inappropriate” and “unfortunate.”
“There is no reason to cancel the flights to and from Ben Gurion Airport,” he says.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu spoke with US Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday evening, and asked him to help restore regular flights to Israel from the US.
Katz called on American aviation companies to return to normal functioning, stressing that Ben-Gurion Airport was safe for take-offs and landings, and that there was no security concern for passenger planes.
“There is no reason for the American companies to stop their flights and give a prize to terror,” he said.
Hamas has explicitly targeted the airport in hopes of stopping or slowing air traffic.
What Netanyahu doesn’t say is that it appears the Obama Administration’s explicit aim is davka to reward to Hamas. It is becoming more obvious by the day. In any event his request was shot down: