The (Un)Friendly Skies

Who at this point can argue in good faith that the order the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) gave forbidding U.S. flights to Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv was actually about safety concerns for travelers?

Initially, I gave some weight to the appropriateness of the ban. I considered several factors: the general concern throughout the entire industry after Malaysian Flight MH17 was shot down by a fired missile in the Ukraine; the fact that a Hamas-fired rocket was intercepted a couple of miles from Ben Gurion Airport; and Hamas’s numerous threats that it would target Ben Gurion and shoot down commercial planes.

The ban, as the White House was quick to remind everyone, was issued not by the White House but by the FAA, a separate and independent body answering to the U.S. Secretary of Transportation and solely for the safety of travelers. But a decision of this magnitude, affecting Israel, perhaps America’s closest ally, could not have been made without the knowledge of the president. Whether or not Obama gave the directive, the buck stops on his desk. Regardless of White House disclaimers, it is clear to this writer that the decision was from the top.

Ramifications of the ban were felt immediately as a Delta flight was diverted mid-flight and forced to land in Paris. Ironic, isn’t it? Despite the war going on here in Israel presently, I feel infinitely safer as a Jew in Israel, free to walk through the streets in my yarmulke, than I would in Paris, that great “enlightened” city. All Israel-bound flights on American carriers were cancelled and, demonstrating that the U.S. still has some of its old clout, most major Europeans carriers also suspended flights to Israel. Dutch national carrier KLM canceled its Amsterdam-Tel Aviv flight, Brussels Airlines, Germany’s Lufthansa and its subsidiaries Swiss Air, EasyJet, Air Canada, and Alitalia all canceled flights. Representatives from European airline companies in Israel admitted that the motivation to cancel their flights was the decision made by the Obama White House, uh, I mean the FAA. Pretty much that left El Al, Israel’s national carrier, as the only game in town for travelers to Israel.

The decision to suspend flights to Israel is actually unique. Presently, the FAA has ongoing warnings for U.S. carriers about air space in Ukraine, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and North Korea. The recent shooting down of the Malaysian airliner over the Ukraine by separatist rebels who have already shot down three other planes using sophisticated weapons has oddly enough not generated sufficient FAA or European concerns regarding the real threat of attacks on air transport in Syria, Yemen, and Iraq.

Despite all this, the FAA has only issued advisory warnings, not absolute suspensions of service as it did to flights into Israel.

Basically, the FAA feels it is safer for you to fly to the hottest war zones in the world than into Ben Gurion Airport. So, safety first, right? Well, only, it seems, if it concerns Israel.

So, the obvious question: Why single out Israel for this ban?

The simple answer is because Obama wanted to stiff-arm Israel at a critical time. Kerry was coming, uninvited, to try to broker a deal between Israel and Hamas. His bungling and the fiasco that ensued will be long remembered by Israel, Egypt, and the Palestinian Authority. Obama could close the skies to Israel and therefore he did. Obama plays tough guy only when he is dealing with Israel and Prime Minister Netanyahu. Even as this column goes to print, Obama is flexing his muscles with Israel, “demanding” a ceasefire and a return to the failed 2012 agreement between Israel and Hamas.

Obama’s “accomplishments” of the last week include his authorizing $47 million in emergency humanitarian aid for Gaza to be primarily administered by the UNRWA (United Nations Work and Relief Agency), the same organization that has more rockets than books in its schools; he also signed an $11 billion arms deal with Qatar, the primary financier of world terrorism today and the operational base of Hamas; and he is now attempting to force Israel into an horrifically unbalanced ceasefire agreement.

May Hashem protect Israel from Hamas and even from Israel’s most reliable ally, the United States, under President Obama.


Meir Solomon is a writer, analyst, and commentator living in Alon Shvut, Israel, with his wife and two children. He can be contacted at

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