Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz called for a congressional investigation into the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA’s) ban on U.S. flights to Israel, citing concern that this was “a political move” designed to “exert pressure” on Israel to agree to a ceasefire in Gaza.
Cruz spoke with a deeply-skeptical Wolf Blitzer on CNN about the 36-hour closure, which was implemented after a Hamas rocket landed a few miles from Tel Aviv airport and was lifted this afternoon.
The ban caused some economic hardship to Israel and seemed an overreaction to many — including Cruz.
“The FAA’s actions naturally lent themselves to serious questions,” he explained. “Number one, what the FAA did for Israel was unprecedented, it has never before shut down flights into Israel.”
“Number two, its behavior was not even-handed,” he continued. “The FAA has not shut down flights into Yemen, into Pakistan. The FAA has not shut down flights into Ukraine, even though Ukraine just had a passenger airline shut down with a Russian ‘Buk’ missile.”
“And so the FAA didn’t explain why Israel was being singled out for disparate treatment simply because one rocket landed several miles away from Ben Gurion Airport in an abandoned field,” Cruz finished.
Blitzer noted that the rocket, in fact, landed one mile away from the airfield and destroyed a house — and added that the FAA did shut down flights to Israel in 1991, when Iraqi Scud missiles were falling on Tel Aviv.
But Cruz was adamant that the treatment remained “disparate” in the face of places like Ukraine — and added that “the timing wasn’t accidental,” considering Kerry’s visit to Israel to urge a ceasefire and the announcement of more U.S. aid to Gaza.
“Was this a political decision driven by the White House, or was it a decision from the professional staff of the FAA?” the senator asked. “If it was the later, that’s an easy question to answer.”
“They can produce the career experts at the FAA — who presumably engaged in some sort of expert analysis comparing the danger to airline safety in Tel Aviv versus Pakistan or Yemen or Ukraine — and they can lay out the analysis,” he explained.
“If, on the other hand, it was designed to exert economic force to pressure Israel into giving into the demands from America, that’s a very different decision,” Cruz concluded. “And those are questions Congress needs to ask and have answers to.”