By COLlive reporter
Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg came to Israel on Wednesday with one goal in mind: Showing the world thats it’s safe in the Holy land.
He landed at Ben Gurion International Airport at approximately 5:00 PM on an El Al flight, following decisions by U.S. and European airlines to suspend flights to Israel over fears of incoming Hamas rocket fire.
“Halting flights here – when the airport is safe – hurts Israel and rewards Hamas for attacking Israel,” Bloomberg said in a statement. “Hamas wants to shut down the airport; we can’t let that happen.”
The announcement about his ‘protest flight’ was widely reported in the U.S. media and warmly accepted by many supporters of Israel. The post about it on COLlive’s Facebook page garnered over 2,000 Likes, 600 Shares and 100 appreciative comments.
Bloomberg said the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration’s flight ban to Israel was “wrong.” As a trained pilot, he added: “Ben Gurion airport is the best protected airport in the world. It is safe and secure and flights from all over the world are landing here. It was an overreaction for the FAA to halt U.S. flights here – and a mistake they should correct.”
Personally greeting him at the airport was Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who used the opportunity to brief the billionaire and philanthropist about the Israel Defense Forces’ Operation Protective Edge to impair Hamas’ capability to attack Israel.
“He’s been a great friend of New York City and America, as have the Israeli people,” Bloomberg said about Netanyahu. “I flew here to show solidarity with the Israeli people, who have come under attack from Hamas, and to show that it’s safe to fly in and out of Israel.”
Bloomberg then traveled to Jerusalem to meet with outgoing President Shimon Peres, who is in his last day in office. The meeting took place at the President’s home.
Next, he paid a Shiva call to the Steinberg family at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Jerusalem. Max Steinberg was an American citizen originally from California who volunteered to serve in the IDF. He was killed in Gaza this weekend.
Bloomberg addressed a delegation of Teach for America members who are currently stranded in Israel due to the travel restrictions.
“Israel – like every other nation – has a right to defend itself and defend its borders against those who cross it to attack it,” he stated.
“In the U.S., if hostile forces crossed over our border from Mexico or Canada, we would respond with overwhelming force to destroy those who are seeking to destroy us. Israelis should not be expected to live under the constant threat of rocket attacks without their government doing something about it,” he said.
Later, Bloomberg was joined by Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat in an interview with Wolf Blitzer, the anchor and host of The Situation Room on the CNN network.
Bloomberg took great offense at a question Blitzer posed about whether a U.S. State Department travel advisory was made for political purposes, and actually scolded the CNN anchor for the suggestion on-air.
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has lifted its restrictions on U.S. airline flights into and out of Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport on Wednesday.
After being renewed earlier today, the cancellation is effective at approximately 11:45 p.m. EDT.
The FAA said in a statement that before making this decision, it consulted with its U.S. government counterparts “to assess the security situation in Israel and carefully reviewed both significant new information and measures the Government of Israel is taking to mitigate potential risks to civil aviation.”
“The agency will continue to closely monitor the very fluid situation around Ben Gurion Airport and will take additional actions, as necessary,” it said.