Defiant Bloomberg Scolds CNN's Blitzer in Israel: 'Don't be Ridiculous'

Image: Defiant Bloomberg Scolds CNN's Blitzer in Israel: 'Don't be Ridiculous' (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Wednesday, 23 Jul 2014 07:33 PM

By Greg Richter

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Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg flew to Israel on Tuesday night to prove it is safe to do so and to urge the Federal Aviation Administration to lift its ban on travel to Ben Gurion Airport by U.S.-registered planes.

In interviews on CNN and Fox News Channel, Bloomberg said the FAA made a mistake when it instituted a 24-hour travel ban on Tuesday and then extended it another 24 hours on Wednesday for flights into the airport in Tel Aviv.

The original 24-hour ban was instituted after a Hamas rocket exploded about a mile away from the airport on Tuesday.

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Bloomberg said the FAA should focus on making air travel safer in the United States, and could learn a lot from Israel, which has had to take more safety precautions than other countries ever since its founding in 1948.

"If we let terrorists frighten ourselves into closing travel to different cities around the world, the economies of the world will collapses and terrorists will have won," Bloomberg told Fox News Channel's "Your World with Neil Cavuto."

A Hamas spokesman issued a statement calling the FAA ban —  as well as bans by several European airlines —  a "great victory."

"If they were to say that about JFK [airport], what would you expect us to do?" Bloomberg asked CNN's Wolf Blitzer.

"We live in a world that is dangerous," he told Cavuto, saying that dangerous things happen near New York airports on a daily basis.

Bloomberg also told Blitzer that he disagrees with the State Department's travel advisory for Israel since fighting has flared up between the country and Hamas in Gaza.

"Everybody seems comfortable," Bloomberg said, because they are protected by the army and air force as well as Israel's Iron Dome anti-rocket defense system that has taken down a majority of Hamas' rocket attacks on Israel's major cities.

"If you don't feel safe here, I don't know where you'd feel safe," he said.

The former mayor said his trip had not been scheduled, but was intended to show support for what Israel is doing. He flew in on an El Al 777. El Al is the Israeli national airline. British Airways also is allowing its planes to land at Ben Gurion.

"I just wanted to do something personally to show my support for doing what's right. I think Israel is doing that," he told Blitzer. "Hamas is trying to kill the Palestinians and kill the Israelis, and somebody's got to say that they've got to stop this."

Asked to clarify, Bloomberg said Hamas bases its rocket attacks in schools and other civilian areas, which increase the odds of children and other innocent people being hurt or killed when Israel responds.

Bloomberg told Cavuto that the ban likely wouldn't have happened if Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 had not been shot down last week by Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine.

But Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat told Blitzer that the Hamas rocket than exploded a mile from Ben Gurion was different. Hamas' rockets are "indiscriminant" and not guided missiles, as are being used in Ukraine, he said.

He added that he would have personally told Bloomberg not to come if he didn't think it was safe.

The risk in coming to Israel is "minimal," Barkat said, and if it weren't, Israel would issue its own warning to travelers.

"We think it's a non-issue," Barkat said. "If Hamas goes 'Boo!' and you get scared, you are helping Hamas get its goals."

Bloomberg became angered when Blitzer asked if the FAA's decision was political.

"Don’t be ridiculous. Why would you think that?" Bloomberg said. "It’s an outrage to accuse one of our agencies —  by asking the question, you’re implying our government does things for political reasons, and maybe everyone once in a while they do, but it’s your job to prove it. Just the allegation against our government, I personally take as an offense."

Blitzer said he was asking the question because many Israelis feel the decision was political.

"The tone of the question, of trying to create dissension, it’s insulting to America," Bloomberg said.

Cavuto asked the same question in his interview, conducted minutes later, and Bloomberg remained calm while saying he did not believe the decision was political.

Bloomberg also argued with Blitzer over claims that tourism, a major industry in Israel, has decreased since the fighting broke last week.

"Why do you think that?" Bloomberg asked Blitzer.

"Because there's a war going on with Hamas," Blitzer said.

Bloomberg said he's seen no such statistics and predicted there would be an "outflow of people" wanting to visit Israel as a show of support.

Bloomberg said that there are more people living in New York City today than before 9/11 because people refused to listen to the media, who predicted people would be frightened away.

As the interview closed, Barkat, the Jerusalem mayor, asked Blitzer how secure he has felt during his two-week stay.

"I feel very secure," Blitzer said.

"Do you want to make sure that's on television?" Bloomberg said.

Cavuto talked to Bloomberg about other issues, getting him to say he will not run for president in 2016. Bloomberg would not speculate on whom he might support, but said it would be someone from one of the two major parties. Bloomberg is a former Republican who became an independent during his 12 years as mayor.

He also said his media company had no plans to buy Fox News rival CNN if Rupert Murdoch, owner of Fox, is successful in purchasing CNN parent company Time-Warner.

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