The FAA ban on Ben Gurion airport – blackmailing Israel to sign a one-sided ceasefire?

Fly El Al. Only Israeli airlines are flying to Ben Gurion

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).

Former NY Mayor Michael Bloomberg

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.

Kol Hakavod to Mr. Bloomberg. Halevai (if only) he was the President of the USA!

Meanwhile, Israel, as improvisational as ever, has opened up Ovda Airport near Eilat to handle international flights:

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.

I would use much stronger and ruder words than “unfortunate and inappropriate”. Just as well I’m not a diplomat.

However I wonder how long it will take people to realise that Ovda is at least as dangerous as Ben Gurion. Look at its proximity to the Sinai, teeming with murderous Jihadi terrorists:

PM Netanyahu spoke to John Kerry (waste of time in my opinion) to ask him to rescind the FAA ban:

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:

The final irony about this whole scandal?

Shame a rocket didn’t hit his plane…

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39 Responses to The FAA ban on Ben Gurion airport – blackmailing Israel to sign a one-sided ceasefire?

  1. Linda says:

    Don’t know why Kerry had not been named persona non grata here. He does more damage than good and he’s a total twerp. However, check out El Al’s new slogans following the FAA ban: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/muqata/new-el-al-slogans/2014/07/23/

  2. lewy14 says:

    Bloomberg as POTUS? Not “if only”, more like “God forbid”. Yeah, massive respect for flying in to support Israel, but please… keep him…

    Generally agree with the rest your analysis. Hamas has, assisted by the FAA, given Israel the resolve – the necessity, really – to continue this until all the rockets are destroyed.

    Praying that you make it so, soon.

    • Irene Matthews says:

      My thoughts precisely. This may be the first thing Nanny Bloomberg has done that makes sense.

      • anneinpt says:

        LOL. See my “oops” to Lewy14…

      • Aridog says:

        Agree with Lewy14…Bloomberg as President here would be maybe 1/10th of 1% better than what we have now in the empty suit in the White House…but generally, as Lewy said “God forbid.” I’m pleased he’s making the gesture, but hope he doesn’t decode you Israelis eat too much fattening food and advise you to ban them…he’s a bit like Michelle Obama that way.

        In keeping with doing something to help in the tiniest way, since I doubt I’d be much use to the IDF other than maybe as a mess pig or laundry dude,…the 71 year old body just doesn’t respond like the 30 year old one did 😦 …however, I found it possible for me to contribute through a company in Toronto to send intellectual and emotional strength building toys pertaining to “empathy” in addition to the 10 toy sets they are sending, on their own company dime, to Israel for use as thought appropriate by Israeli authorities. I added 2 sets to their tally and encourage Americans and Canadian out there to do the same via this link …remember to use the promo code “HEART” on check out if anyone choose to do this as I have. My interest in the firm, 21Toys dates back to a graduation thesis final design at an engineering school…it is a solid concept both engineering wise and psychologically.

        The time is short, only one hour left before the shipping option (no cost to anyone but the firm) closes down at Noon EDT.

        • anneinpt says:

          What a beautiful idea Aridog! (I’m not quite sure how Israeli and Gazan children are supposed to play together with these toys at the moment, but it’s a lovely idea).

          And I’m sure the IDF kitchen duty guys would be only too happy to have you in their ranks. 🙂

    • anneinpt says:

      Oops. Sorry about Bloomberg. :p

  3. RRW says:

    The FAA and the Europeans flight authorities are total idiots. I spoke to a man last night who is doing Miluim with the Iron dome – and was part of the Iron dome testers. He told me that there was more chance of a plane being downed by a flock of birds than by a missile –
    As you say, they are playing into Hamas’s hands and handing them a victory on a plate. So much for America saying “We got your back” – yes – by sticking a knife in it.
    Here’s hoping for better times – and dare I say it (I can’t believe I am saying it !!) – Fly El Al and keep the country open.

    • anneinpt says:

      Exactly right about America having our back. In a stranglehold. With a knife.

      Thanks for the info about the Iron Dome. It’s obvious it’s working. The terrorists have been aiming at the airport from the beginning. It’s typical of the Americans. They’re the world’s biggest cowards (the Administration, not the people), and the least capable diplomatically.

      And definitely no friends of ours.

  4. DavidinPT says:

    I suggest that we simply say that until the FAA rescinds its craven decision, we will simply not meet any US officials. Period. And if the US threaten to hold back supplies, weaponry replenishments, etc, simply storm their forward bases here and grab their strategic stores. If necessary hold their US guards prisoner and trade them for any Israelis held by Hamas. Time to show Hussein Obama that he’d better not f*ck with us any more.

  5. Aridog says:

    I just had a post eaten by the gremlins…it had a link in it, please check the span trap….I regrettably did not keep a copy to repost.

    • anneinpt says:

      Fixed. Don’t know why it went to spam. Perhaps because the link was “t.co” rather than the full http URL. Anyway, no worries.

      • Andrea says:

        Hi Anne , it might be happened the same to me three days ago due to a link to Huffington possibly. Stay safe and strong over these difficult days

        • anneinpt says:

          I’m so sorry Andrea. I do check my spam folder more or less every day and I didn’t see a post from you. If you think a post has been swallowed, just email me and I’ll see if I can fix it or find it. You can try and repost it again if you want. I don’t ban links to the Huffpo or anywhere else (except for hate sites) but sometimes the spam filter has other ideas.

  6. Edward says:

    Now that Hamass has threatened Civil Aviation, the entire world should come down HARD on Hamass.

    • anneinpt says:

      Edward, the problem here is actually the US not Hamas. Well, Hamas has indeed been threatening our civil aviation but that’s not new. What’s new is that the US has suddenly woken up and banned flights to Israel.

      Now Israel has a perfectly good defence system, the Iron Dome, as evidenced by nearly 3 weeks of rocketing and very little damage. So the US’s FAA ban is seen as highly suspicious by fed-up Israelis.

      The entire world should indeed come down hard on Hamas – but NOT on Israel. Shutting down our airport is exactly that.

  7. Reality says:

    I agree with David in PT.BTW how did Kerry fly here?Surely if he can so can everyone else.I think all tourists who’s flights have been cancelled should start class action suits against their airlines.They should be fully reimbursed .Those who want to come home(my brother & sister in law) should either claim against said airlines or demand El Al to claim back money.The cost of an El Al ticket from anywhere is outrageous(asthey claim to be losing huge amounts anyway this year) but they are probably using this opportunity to make extra cash!Not nice but thats business.Any lawyers present to start representing the hordes of people who would jump at the opportunity to claim back from airlines?It would teach every country a lesson.
    As for Obama?Until he starts behaving like a friend we should tell him he too is persona non grata.When WE are good and ready,when he gives US conciliating gestures(releasingPollard,rescindingFAA decision…)then PERHAPS Netanyahu will think about meeting him or his advisors

    • anneinpt says:

      The compensation claims are going to be mind-boggling. We need to sue the FAA, not the airlines. They were only following orders and they are very risk-averse. As soon as the FAA issues instructions they regard those as the gold standard and won’t deviate.

      The only exception amazingly enough, besides the Israeli airlines, is British Airways. Kol hakavod to them.

  8. Earl says:

    Impressive thinking publicly by Yair Lapid before this evening’s security Cabinet meeting- it appears that the IDF ROE are now sufficiently broad to permit an occupation of Gaza to root out all of the terror infrastructure and leadership. No hudna this time. Unbelievable- finally, the Izzie’s are taking the Hamas terror threat seriously; those tunnels are a direct strategic risk to IL.

    • anneinpt says:

      The impression here is that Hamas have wakened a sleeping giant. The truth is that the Israeli people have always wanted to eradicate Hamas but we’ve always been prevented by the world.

      But our blood is boiling this time, and the tunnel threat too immediate and enormously dangerous, so there’s no way that we’re going to let the world stop us. Bibi is an adept politician if nothing else and he’s reading the public’s mood. He’s also remembering the public’s fury after the last 3 rounds (Cast Lead, Pillar of Defence and Lebanon II) where we suffered losses and yet withdrew without achieving any real objective.

      The people are fed up up to here and it’s got to stop. If Tzipi Livni is saying that we might need to reoccupy Gaza, and Lapid is saying the same, if leftist columnists are admitting mea culpa in the newspapers, you know we’ve reached our limits.

      About bloody time is all I can say. I only hope our leaders really have the intestinal fortitude to withstand international pressure and condemnation – yes, the condemnations are already coming thick and fast. War crimes. Human rights. Bla bla bloody bla.

      • Earl says:

        Pillay is a pillock. Maroon passport, tax free income and a cushy defined-benefit pension plan in hand, she merely runs yet-another satrap of the OIC. Ignore her bleatings; her credibility is nil. Even Hodges in the Tel today clearly “gets it”, and the comments are entirely and massively pro-IL.

        • anneinpt says:

          Yes, of course. I know that and you know that.

          But these UN resolutions are all on the record and are dragged out by the haters to blast Israel with over and over. You knwo the arguments: “Israel is in breach of x no. of UN resolutions”.

          I know it makes no practical difference but it is very wearing and it becomes demoralizing. Which I suppose is what they’re trying to do. In which case, mazal tov, they’ve succeeded.

  9. Brian Goldfarb says:

    I’m glad you mentioned BA still flying. Friends here (in the UK) wondered if the Govt quietly but firmly said that it wouldn’t be politic to suspend flights. After all, Cameron has THREE times repeated, in public, his support for Israel and its right to defend itself by more or less any means.

    Also, Anne, you should stick in a link in every post at this time going back to those items on what international law actually says about responding to being attacked.

    Did anyone else notice that that bastion for the defence of human rights, the UNHRC, is to launch an enquiry into possible (they are being ironic, aren’t they, using that word?) breaches of human rights by Israel – specifically citing the 4 boys on the beach. Why don’t they just do the Red Queen bit (Alice Through the Looking Glass): “verdict first, evidence later”. We all know what the result will be anyway. And, of course, that Hamas commits two war crimes with every rocket they launch will remain a mystery to all, except those of us willing to read those items on international law. The resolution up for discussion has just been condemned by the UK Foreign Minister as biased.

    Actually, a discussion with friends this am led to a feeling that here in the UK (at least) compassion fatigue with “the poor Palestinians” has set in: many are more worried about Islamism & Jihadis in the UK. Not that antisemitism has disappeared, just that Moslem extremism is a bigger threat. And anyone who deals it a blow…my enemy’s enemy and all that. In this case, my enemy’s enemy is, in fact, my friend!

    Please, IDF & IAF, keep hammering them, destroy those tunnels, and we’re coming to Israel in October whatever the “climate” is. The news here (from the BBC of all people) is more than hinting that Israelis as a whole have had enough and want Hamas gone, despite the loss of soldiers’ lives. It’s almost as if (the reporter said) each death ratchets up the determination to see it through. I’ve always said that you rouse the democracies at your peril. And, as I said in a passing comment a couple of weeks ago, the Israelis have “blood in their eyes” and are coming for payback.

    • anneinpt says:

      Good idea about posting a link to “international law re self-defence” Brian. I might do that on relevant posts.

      I too get the impression that the British public and gov’t are getting fed up with the Palestinians’ victimhood. However that is not reflected in a chunk of the British press. The usual suspects, mainly the Guardian and Independent with a chunk of the Daily Mail, depending on its mood. The Telegraph has been solidly pro-Israel though. I can’t read the Times since it’s behind a paywall. It used to be pro-Israel. I hope it still is.

      You’d think it would be the same in France where the danger of Islamism is miles greater than in England. They have a much bigger Muslim population. Though it’s possible the British Muslims are more extreme. It’s a subtle difference. But those running riots, pogroms even, in Paris are something I doubt you’d see in London despite the absolutely vile slogans and signs at the anti-Israel demos last week.

      “Blood in their eyes” – what a perfect description of the Israeli mood. That’s it exactly.

      • Brian Goldfarb says:

        Re “Blood…”, thank you, even tho’ I’m quoting! And that’s the impression I’ve got from your and other reports.

        Re The Times, yes it is still pro-Israel. Had an excellent Hamas-bashing editorial last Monday, followed on Tuesday by a letter essentially pro-Hamas & Israel-bashing from a retired Lt Col. Today, The Times had another editorial attacking the rise (again) of antisemitism in Europe and 3 letters replying to the Lt Col. One was mine – I quoted the Abba Eban (“On the morrow of the victory…”), the second gave the “3 noes” and the third reminded the world of the of the Hamas’ raison d’etre as shown in its Charter.

  10. Brian Goldfarb says:

    Can’t recall if I posted this earlier or if Anne linked to it, but there is this Algemeiner article (http://www.algemeiner.com/2014/07/21/al-jazeera-publishes-updated-list-of-gaza-dead-analysis-confirms-israel-tageting-combatants/) which analyses the dead (at that time) as published by Al Jazeera and comes up with the result that 66% of the dead are males between the ages of 18-38, with a further 5% or so aged 39-48. That is, some 70% of Gazan dead are military-age males. The likelihood is that many, maybe most, even a very high percentage, of them are/were Hamas members and operatives.

    Just like the last time.

    And this doesn’t rule out the possibility that some of the women were also Hamas operatives. It is unfortunate that Hamas refuses to allow the really innocent civilians to evacuate (i.e., get out of the way).

    Until the ground forces started into Gaza, 100% of Israel’s casualties were undoubtedly civilians.

  11. lewy14 says:

    CNN and Bloomberg are reporting the FAA ban on flights to Ben Gurion has been lifted.

    • anneinpt says:

      Yes, I woke up to the news. But they’re saying the foreign airlines are not rushing to start flying again.

      On the other hand passengers had been reassigned to Israeli airlines or rescheduled so it’s going to take a while to sort it all out. I’ll give them a day or two’s grace before I bash them again.

  12. DavidinPT says:

    I just had another thought on this issue. Even if Obama had nothing to do with the FAA decision (since rescinded) the fact that tens of thousands of Israelis including the mainstream press were prepared to believe that he did, shows how much he’s “lost” the Israeli public. He has no credibility here whatsoever regarding backing Israel, another major failure of his foreign policy, whatever his intentions.

  13. Aridog says:

    If flying to Israel, why would anyone fly other than El Al? Me, I want to board a plane that has the best security check possible. After years of flying all over the place, for DOD, El Al is my choice. Period Full Stop. [Even if not reimbursed]

    • anneinpt says:

      I agree with you. My preference is always for El Al. I feel safest and most comfortable (psychologically) with them. However, economics unfortunately play a part and El Al are often quite a bit more expensive than other airlines. They’re also a lot less comfortable, squash more seats into less space, than other airlines. So people have been “voting with their feet” and using other airlines.

      But that all disappears in a crisis. Then El Al reverts to almost a military airline. When the Icelandic volcano erupted a few years ago people were stranded across Europe, including my own dear husband. He travelled from England to Calais by train, then by car to Paris and from there by train to Marseilles. It was a bit like in WWII when people only travelled overground! From Marseilles he flew by good old El Al back to Israel.

      El Al were the only airline to organize an airlift for Israeli passengers all over Europe. They announced which airports they were travelling from, and passengers had to get themselves there somehow. They organized planes and passengers like buses. You just queued up and got on the plane and when it was full it took off. Then the next plane moved up the line.

      It was similar on 9/11. The only planes allowed by any country to keep flying were El Al because they knew their security was excellent. Again hubby was stranded in England for a day, but he got home where thousands of others were stranded for days.

      You’d think that if every country acknowledges El Al’s security they would institute their methods in airports worldwide. But no. You get the TSA instead. And that’s a whole different subject.

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