When President Obama announced on Monday that he had dispatched Secretary of State John Kerry to the Middle East in order that he “do everything he can to help facilitate a cessation to hostilities” between the terror group Hamas and Israel, none of the President’s critics had yet accused him of using the Federal Aviation Administration as political weapon to extract security concessions from Israel that the beleaguered Jewish state could otherwise never be pressured into making.
That was before Tuesday’s announcement by the FAA that it was immediately banning all U.S. airlines from flying into or out of Ben Gurion International airport, Israel’s primary global gateway. Now, both American supporters of Israel– and Israelis themselves, who are still reeling from the decision– are left to wonder if security was the only consideration that factored into the FAA’s unprecedented, and Israeli’s claim, utterly unjustified decision to ban all flights to Israel.
Texas Senator Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) openly accused the White House of launching an economic boycott of Israel. In a statement issued by his Washington office, Cruz said, “The facts suggest that President Obama has just used a federal regulatory agency to launch an economic boycott on Israel, in order to try to force our ally to comply with his foreign-policy demands.”
Israel supporter Gary Bauer, a former GOP presidential candidate and senior official in the Reagan Administration who now runs the grassroots lobbying group ‘Campaign for Working Families’ doesn’t wonder at all. In his widely circulated “End of Day” political briefing that is delivered to more than 160,00 conservative activists, Bauer is pulling no punches; “This is nothing more than the Obama White House tightening the screws on Israel. Kerry,” Bauer writes, “is in Middle East now pushing a misguided ceasefire plan. Tourism is a huge industry in Israel, and Obama is holding it hostage.
Quoting recently retired Israeli President Shimon Peres, Bauer says “the real answer is not to stop the flights, it is to stop the rockets.”
“The insider consensus in Washington,” wrote Bauer, “is that this FAA decision was the biggest victory Hamas has scored in this latest war.” “In a war between good and evil,” Bauer asks, “are we pressuring good to stop fighting evil?
In Israel, discussion about motives behind the FAA decision, which has been universally condemned, is more muted. Israeli Transport Minister Yisrael Katz lambasted the FAA’s ban on flights to Israel claiming, “They have given a prize to terror.” As Israeli President Shimon Peres said, “The real answer is not to stop the flights but to stop the rockets.” That means stopping Hamas.
Eran Ramot, director of the Israel based Fisher Institute for Air and Space Strategic Studies says the US decision seems so unjustified as to cause him to wonder whether politics might not be involved. Ramot to Israel’s Globes Business daily, “In my experience,” says the former El Al pilot, “the FAA is motivated by professional considerations, not political ones, but that doesn’t mean that it pays no attention to politics.”
“They are facing a difficult dilemma,” Ramot continued referring to the FAA. “On the one hand, they think it’s a war zone, and they want to keep the passengers safe. On the other hand, they don’t want to disrupt aviation traffic to an entire country.”
Israeli media reports that suspicion around the Obama Administration’s unexpected and devastating decision is no doubt growing. One Israeli who manages a US airline’s office in Israel, was quoted as saying the decision “smacks of politics.”
Another unnamed “diplomatic insider” told the Algemeiner newspaper, “the timing of FAA’s announcement was puzzling, to say the least.”
Israel’s Ben Gurion airport may have been too dangerous for US carriers, but it apparently wasn’t too dangerous for UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon to land there on board a private luxury jet provided to him by the government of Qatar, the prime financial backer for the Hamas terror group that has fired more than 2200 rockets at Israeli civilians in the last 15 days.