July 22nd, 2014
09:45 PM ET
9 years ago

In CNN interview, combative Bloomberg says U.S. flight ban a mistake

(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.

Filed under: Israel • Michael Bloomberg
soundoff (57 Responses)
  1. Omar Qadri

    A question to Mr. Bloomberg: Are your loyalties to America or Israel?

    July 23, 2014 03:59 am at 3:59 am |
  2. Tom

    Would have been one hell of a statement if his plane got shot down...

    July 23, 2014 04:52 am at 4:52 am |
  3. Marie MD

    I am sure his will is in place. Fool!

    July 23, 2014 06:31 am at 6:31 am |
  4. Gurgyl

    What does he want, another flight in disaster? Glad, FAA is canceling.

    July 23, 2014 07:16 am at 7:16 am |
  5. Troy

    Yes, yes Mr. Bloomberg. It's all SAFE until an errant rocket hits the plane you are flying in. Watcha gona do then???

    July 23, 2014 07:28 am at 7:28 am |
  6. thereporter

    So if they lift the ban and something happens then you should lose every penny you own!

    July 23, 2014 07:32 am at 7:32 am |
  7. Builderberg Attendee

    All these "leaders" will try as hard as they can to put people in harms way. Haven't we already had enough airliners fall out of the sky? Politics over safety...

    July 23, 2014 07:44 am at 7:44 am |
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