The Corner

Cruz: Is Obama’s FAA Ban the Launch of an Economic Boycott of Israel?

Senator Ted Cruz (R., Tx.) has issued a statement objecting to the Obama administration’s ban on flights to Israel – a ban that comes while the administration continues to provide lavish financial aid to the Palestinian Authority, knowing this aid is siphoned off by Hamas, the terrorist organization engaged in an aggressive war against Israel. Senator Cruz has five pointed questions for the administration.

Here is the statement:

Today, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced that it was extending its ban on flights by U.S. carriers into Israel.  The rationale was that because one Hamas-launch rocket had landed in a field one mile from Ben Gurion International Airport, the ‘potentially hazardous security situation created by the armed conflict between Israel and Gaza’ necessitated this extreme action that has so far cancelled some 160 flights and left tens of thousands stranded.

Obviously, no one wants to place civilian travelers in harm’s way, and the recent downing of Malaysian Airways flight 17 by pro-Russian militants in Ukraine is a stark reminder of the dangers posed by regional unrest.  But security concerns in Israel are hardly breaking news, and given the exceptional challenge Israel faces, Ben Gurion has rightly earned the reputation as one of the safest airports in the world due to the aggressive security measures implemented by the Israeli government. 

Given that some 2,000 rockets have been fired into Israel over the last six weeks, many of them at Tel Aviv, it seems curious to choose yesterday at noon to announce a flight ban, especially as the Obama Administration had to be aware of the punitive nature of this action. 

Tourism is an $11 billion industry for Israel, which is in the middle of a summer high season already seriously diminished by the conflict initiated by Hamas.  Group tours have been cancelling at a 30% rate.  This FAA flight ban may well represent a crippling blow to a key economic sector through both security concerns and worries that additional bans will down more flights and strand more passengers.  It hardly matters if or when the ban is lifted. At this point, the damage may already be done.

Even given the remarkable resilience and prosperity of its economy, Israel has always been vulnerable to economic blackmail.  In the 1970s, we saw the Arab League boycott, which tried to punish any financial institution that did business with Israel. 

Today we have similar noxious efforts by the Boycott, Divest, Sanction or ‘BDS’ movement, which seeks to punish Israel for the fact that the militant terrorist elements embraced by the Palestinian Authority make any peace deal an intolerable security risk to Israel at this time.  But the Obama Administration has refused to robustly denounce this effort to undermine our ally. 

Instead, Secretary of State John Kerry issued a veiled threat last February when he encouraged boycotts of Israel and said that absent serious Israeli concessions at the negotiating table, Israel’s economic prosperity was ‘not sustainable’ and ‘illusory.’ Secretary Kerry unfortunately reprised this theme just this April, when he threatened that Israel risked becoming an ‘apartheid state’ if Israel did not submit to his chosen solution to the Israel-Palestinian crisis.

Taken in the context of Secretary Kerry’s comments, yesterday’s action by the FAA raises some serious questions: 

  • Was this decision 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 are still 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?  And the State Department?  Why were any such communications necessary, if this was purely about airline safety?
  • 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?

When Secretary Kerry arrived in Cairo this week his first act was to announce $47 million in additional aid to Gaza, which is in effect $47 million for Hamas.  In short order, this travel ban was announced by the FAA.  Aiding Hamas while simultaneously isolating Israel does two things.  One, it helps our enemy.  Two, it hurts our ally. 

Until these serious questions are answered, 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.  

If so, Congress should demand answers.

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