After American authorities canceled flights to Israel's Ben Gurion airport, the rest of the West quickly followed suit. "The success of Hamas in closing Israeli airspace is a great victory for the resistance, and is the crown of Israel's failure," crowed a spokesman for the terrorist gang.
The single Palestinian rocket that prompted this action didn't actually hit the Tel Aviv airport. The New York Times gets it right in their headline: "Airlines Suspend Flights to Israel After Hamas Rocket Falls Near Main Airport." Some reports say the rocket was actually a successful Iron Dome intercept that dropped out of the sky in the general vicinity of the airport, damaging a couple of houses.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pleated with Secretary of State John Kerry to rescind the FAA travel ban, which is currently scheduled to extend into a second day, while Israeli officials grumbled about the Obama Administration over-reacting and sandbagging them:
An Israeli official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly, said that Israel had had no advance notification by the airlines of their intention to cancel flights. The official insisted that it was safe to fly to Israel.
“If they wanted to hand the terrorists a prize, they couldn’t have chosen a better way,” the official said, adding, “If it was safe so far, why would it not be safe now? Nothing has changed. The airport has been there since Day 1.”
The police said that the rocket that struck Yehud on Tuesday badly damaged two houses. But the Israeli official noted that most of the rockets fired at the Tel Aviv area by militants had been intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome antimissile system.
Ephraim Sneh, a retired general and deputy defense minister of Israel, was sharply critical of the decision to suspend flights. It was a dream of the militant Hamas leadership “to disconnect Israel from the outer world,” he told reporters on a conference call sponsored by the New York-based Israel Policy Forum.
The Times notes this is the first time Palestinian terrorists have actually been able to shut down Ben Gurion Airport, a feat that previously required Scud missile strikes from Saddam Hussein in 1991. "The disruption of air travel at the height of the summer tourism season highlighted the growing impact of the conflict in the Gaza Strip on the Israeli economy, even as the government sought to project an aura of business as usual," says the report, which goes on to observe that Ben Gurion "handled 14 million visitors last year and is critical to Israel's economy."
Many observes have noted that far more serious threats to other airports have not prodded the FAA into hitting the panic button. Of course, the shootdown of Flight MH17 by Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine has everyone on edge, but there's no reason to think the Hamas thugs currently launching random terror weapons from the roofs of Gaza schools and hospitals have anything comparable to the Buk missile batteries provided by Crazy Vladimir's Discount Anti-Aircraft Emporium.
Over at the Weekly Standard, Noah Pollak observes that the intensity of Hamas rocket fire has been decreasing lately, since the Israeli Defense Force is currently kicking their asses on and below the ground in Gaza, and detects a disturbing ulterior motive in the Obama Administration's actions:
So why did the State Department issue this warning not when long-range rocket fire was a more serious threat, but only yesterday, days after such fire had decreased sharply, and coinciding with Kerry's trip to the region?
The answer may be that the Obama administration is using the travel warning to exert pressure on Israel to agree to a ceasefire. It could be a shot across the bow – a deniable but very real signal to Prime Minister Netanyahu that the Obama administration’s support for Israel’s operation in Gaza has come to an end, and that there will be consequences for its continuation. And at the same time the State Department was delivering a blow to the Israeli tourism industry, Kerry was showing solidarity with Gaza by announcing a $47 million aid package, much of which is slated to be administered by UNRWA, the corrupt and terror-linked UN agency that has been in the news for storing Hamas rockets in one of its schools.
Reporters who cover the State Department could be forgiven for asking some probing questions today about whether travel warnings are being used as an impartial means of ensuring the safety of American travelers – or whether the warning system has been transformed by the Obama administration into a means of deterring a close ally from doing what it believes necessary to protect its civilians during wartime.
Also suspicious of the FAA's action against Ben Gurion, and willing to put his personal safety on the line to make his point: former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg.
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. Ben Gurion is the best protected airport in the world and El Al flights have been regularly flying in and out of it safely. The flight restrictions are a mistake that hands Hamas an undeserved victory and should be lifted immediately. I strongly urge the FAA to reverse course and permit US airlines to fly to Israel.
This is all of a piece with U.S. and U.N. efforts to browbeat Israel into a series of "cease fires" which Hamas cheerfully ignored. There is no "smart power" tactic for browbeating the guys who keep getting caught stashing munitions inside schools, and ordering their civilians to die as meat shields for Hamas weapons.
Conflict is always a test of will. Rarely does it end with the absolute annihilation of one force or the other. It ends when one side decides it can no longer continue. Free nations are always at a disadvantage against totalitarian states and barbarian hordes in this regard, because a free people's threshold for pain is inevitably lower. Terrorism or "asymmetrical warfare" is explicitly intended as a strategy to exploit this advantage, using a variety of techniques to overwhelm civilized enemies and render them numb from horror.
Advanced democracies also have more to lose than a bloodthirsty gang of warlords. Israel's air travel and tourism industries are achievements beyond the reach of Hamas, whose skills are primarily focused around smuggling, killing, looting their public treasury, and arranging politically useful displays of corpses. They have no delicate economic systems to disrupt. They made a point of swiftly demolishing everything Israel left them, when it withdrew from Gaza.
The great project of Palestinian terrorism has been to keep their captive populace largely focused on their genocidal crusade against Israel. That's one reason they don't go in for negotiated agreements and peaceful co-operation. Nothing makes the terrorist leadership angrier than signs that Palestinian civilians are building a decent life for themselves, in cooperation with Israeli industry. Terror-symp Western activists and their useful-idiot followers understand this, too. Look at the campaign directed against the Israeli company SodaStream, which went out of its way to offer good jobs to Palestinians. We can't have that, now can we? The rancid stew of "militant" groups and their "political wings" who control the Palestinians cannot allow them to develop a will for success, because that would degrade their appetite for destruction. They must not be allowed to build anything that they might be inclined to protect. Construction and commerce are pathways to real peace, not the grisly conquest falsely passed off as "peace" in terrorist rhetoric.
Israel does have construction and commerce to protect. They do understand the true meaning of peace, because they have something to lose, a future worth protecting and sharing. The Blaze reports that Israeli media have been describing the cancellation of air travel into their country as an "air blockade" and a "boycott," while Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz described it as "a prize to Hamas, in that it will harm normal life in Israel." Why would any civilized people be interested in giving prizes to Hamas, especially when that prize will take the form of a kill switch on the Israeli economy, which it can threaten to flip any time it pleases?
Democracies can be pressured into accepting deals, while barbarians must be defeated. The fact that the former ending to a conflict is much easier to arrange does not make it right. Is there any force on Earth that can save Hamas from the consequences of its actions, except the Obama Administration?
Update: Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) suspected the flight ban to Israel was a political decision by the Obama Administration, in a Sean Hannity appearance transcribed by RealClearPolitics:
Israel is defending herself against vicious terrorists who are trying to murder innocent civilians. As Prime Minister Netanyahu put it very effectively a couple weeks ago, in Israel they use missile defense to protect their civilians. Hamas is using their civilians to protect their missiles, which is a war crime. And you ask why aren't we doing this? Sean, the reason is sad, it's tragic, but the Obama administration is the most anti-Israel administration this government has ever had.
Yesterday, we saw the FAA make an unprecedented decision to ban all air travel to the nation of Israel. And I've asked today the very simple question, did President Obama just unilaterally launch economic boycotts on the nation of Israel? Because John Kerry showed up in Israel, gave $47 million to Hamas in Gaza...
This decision by the FAA raises serious questions. Was this a political decision? Was it driven by the White House? Was it driven by the State Department? If it was based on airline safety, as they said, why did they single out Israel? Why not ban travel to Pakistan, or Yemen or Ukraine, where a commercial airliner just got shot down, but instead they targeted Israel. And the timing at the exact moment Kerry was there trying to strongarm Israel into stopping their efforts to shut down Hamas's rockets and tunnels.
Late Wednesday night, the FAA "carefully reviewed both significant new information and measures the Government of Israel is taking to mitigate potential risks to civil aviation," and lifted the ban on flights to and from Ben Gurion Airport. However, according to USA Today, some of the European carriers who followed the American government's lead have not resumed travel to Tel Aviv, and the European Aviation Safety Agency is still recommending the suspension of flights to Ben Gurion.