(CNN) – A combative Michael Bloomberg told CNN on Wednesday the United States erred in banning airline flights to Israel after a Hamas rocket landed near its main airport earlier this week.
The former New York mayor flew overnight to Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv where he was personally met and embraced by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyhu.
Bloomberg told CNN's Wolf Blitzer he made the trip on El Al to demonstrate the safety and security of traveling to Israel.
"The fact that one rocket falls ... a mile away doesn't mean you should shut down air traffic into a country and paralyze the country," Bloomberg bluntly stated. "You can't just get cowed when somebody says something and everybody goes on the side of ultimate caution. That's how terrorists win, Wolf. You can't do that."
The Federal Aviation Administration, in an extraordinary step on Tuesday, banned U.S. airlines from flying to Tel Aviv over safety concerns. The prohibition was extended through Thursday, when the agency said it would reevaluate the situation. A number of overseas airlines followed suit.
Bloomberg said he thought the flight restriction was “a mistake.”
Rocket lands one mile from airport
The flight suspensions to Israel were the latest development in the 2-week-old conflict between Israel and Hamas militants in Gaza. Neither side is showing any side of backing down.
Bloomberg was asked if he thought there may be political reasons behind the travel ban, which followed a State Department warning to Americans planning to travel to the region. He took offense.
"Why would you think that, Wolf? Don't be ridiculous," he said. "Why would you think that? It's an outrage for you to accuse one our agencies. … By asking the question you're implying that our government does things for political reasons, and maybe every once in a while they do, but it's your job to prove it."
Blitzer, saying a lot of people in Israel think there may be a political motives behind the U.S. government's decisions, pressed Bloomberg on the question.
"I wouldn't know," he responded. "I don't know. You don't know, and the other people don't know."
Bloomberg said the "tone of the question" was "insulting to America."
Airline ban latest developments
When Blitzer said tourists are restricting travel to Israel because of the conflict, Bloomberg said tourists can't come to the country in the first place if the flights aren't in operation.
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, who was also part of the interview, said "people are very cautious but running their life as usual, and we don't get scared from terrorists."
Asked if tourism was down, Barkart didn't deny the claim, but said new tourists had arrived Wednesday in Israel, referring to Bloomberg. "The best way to fight terrorism is exactly go on with your normal life."
"And that's what we did in New York City," Bloomberg jumped in, referring to the 9/11 attacks. "We didn't let the journalists scare everybody away."
As the interview was wrapping up, Bakart asked Blitzer, who's been in the region for nearly two weeks, if he feels safe.
"I feel very secure," Blitzer said.
"You want to make sure that's on television?" Bloomberg quipped.
Netanyahu raised the FAA's action with Secretary of State John Kerry, who is in the region trying to help arrange a cease-fire.
CNN's Paul Steinhauser, Ashley Killough and Jake Tapper contributed to this report.
Why is there no mention of the fact that unlike El Al, American airlines are not equipped with missile deflectors that would protect them from what Hamas is firing. I wouldn't fly an unprotected airplane into that chaos. You're providing incomplete information.
Another apologist for Israeli crimes!!! Hey, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, one question: was this airfare paid by AIPAC? It better not be paid by tax payers else you'd better report it on your 2014 income tax return. One more thing: I have absolutely no quarrel with you staying there for ever; and if you want to hand over your US citizenship, just mail it back.
The reasonable precaution of the FAA is surely based on technical evaluation not political dogma.
New York should be the capital of the Western World in terms of informed rational thinking. It has however become a haven for rich ideologues. America, the world need you to recover your balance and help create a planet that can live with itself.
Imagine how Bloomberg would scream if an airliner happened to be hit while at or approaching the airport? This is not a matter of politics one way or the other, but rather one of passenger and crew safety. Or is he oblivious to what happened to MH17?
CAnt stand Bloomberg, but he is correct this time.
If they serve 32 ounce soda pop on the flights he will calm down and want all flights banned everywhere.
Finally I agree with Bloomberg on something – solidarity with Israel.
While the Mayor is wasting two days on the City's dime, the FAA and our airlines are simple exercising prudence.
This is NOT an example of a man who has the safety and well being of others in mind and THAT is what he is demonstrating to everyone.
The world has apparently gone nuts when it comes to war. Changing the phrase from war to terrorism is meaningless considering there are four countries or entities actually fighting each other. Nobody in their right mind would choose to be near war, so a decision to fly civilians over a battle ground or landing close to an airport is simply not smart. For this man to get on board a plane intentionally to give a warring faction a chance to take his life (or others) apparently to support one of the warring parties cry for loss of financial gain is just sick. Money has become more important than lives leaving no room for common sense.
Why does not he fly over the Russian-Ukrainian border, too?
No doubt bloomberg is also going there for a good fresh dose of hasbara. Nice of bloomberg to put Israeli pocketbooks above the interests of American lives, eh?
FAAs and airlines' decisions are not about politics, it is about human life. Bloomberg is not an executive of an airline and I wonder what he's gonna say if 200 or more peoples' life perishes for nothing? Human life is above everything and does not worth taking unnecessary risks. He may take this risk for himself, but criticising airlines and FAA is another thing.
Thank you for supporting Israel! God bless you!!!
Unbelievable Bloomberg INTERFERENCE with international RULES
Israel: ok ok you win !
Israel: Yes, you win, take it all, we even got you a flight around the country to get you familiar with the area
Hamas: Allah Hu Akbar, we won, we are so awesome, these are nice first class seats
Flight attendant: Welcome to Malaysia Airlines
Israel: Have a nice flight
one more sorrow double-loyal JAM
BRAVO Mr. Bloomberg! Another bureaucratic American agency/FAA flexing it's overbearing muscle power, to create fear and apprehension, when there is no real safety issue. While there is a conflict in the area, Hammas doesn't have Russian ballistic missiles. The analogy to the Malaysian air/Ukraine/Russian scenario is misguided, misrepresented and misdirected.
let him stay there
You can fly El Al if you wish. I'm glad a few countries have the sense to declare Tel Aviv a little unsafe to fly into!
Wow. He is such a loyal Israeli.
How long will he be in Israel ?
Bloomberg is going to Israel to tell the Israelis to turn in their guns and then they will be safe. Hamas will then do likewise.
If you think what jews are doing in Palestine is bad, you should see what they are doing to the rest of the world. Israel doesnt have right to exist at all. Israel was created by ethnic cleansing and land theft.
In 1947/48 over 750,000 Palestinians were expelled from their land. During1950's Israel passed laws that takes possession of land of those expelled Palestinians called "Absentee Property law" which states if owner is absentee and does no claim land it belongs to Israel.And those "owners" were absentee because Israel expelled them in first place.
Some 70% of todays Israel was created out of that land.
So anyone that says Israel has right to exist supports ethnic cleansing,land theft and terrorism.
Israel was doomed since its inception...how could it possibly survive in a sea of arabs...yeah..on the back of american bayonets up until now. How long till the americans grow tired of Israel which is being kept alive by Billions of Dollars of US Taxpayers money?
Israel cannot win this war, primarily because it is fighting only the symptoms of the conflict with the Palestinians — rocket launching — not the underlying causes, which are the Gaza blockade and the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories.
Thank god...they should shut Israel for good