Safety first: Post-Ukraine, Tel Aviv flight ban makes sense

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The long-standing conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians, currently centered on Gaza, took on important implications for Americans Tuesday as the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration imposed a temporary ban on U.S. carrier flights to Tel Aviv airport.

The reason was safety, given that the airport has become part of the war zone between the two parties, with a Palestinian rocket launched from Gaza having landed in the vicinity. The conflict, which includes Israeli air attacks on Gaza and a ground invasion into the Palestinian territory, has already claimed some 695 Palestinian and 28 Israeli lives.

The timing of the FAA announcement was prompted in part by the shootdown over the war zone in Eastern Ukraine, apparently by Russian-supported Ukrainian rebels, of a Malaysian Boeing passenger aircraft with 298 aboard. The U.S. action, quickly followed by comparable prohibitions of use of the Tel Aviv airport by carriers of many other countries, reflected increased global sensitivity to the problem of flying over war zones prompted by the Ukraine tragedy.

The Israelis are apparently angry at the FAA-imposed ban, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu having spoken with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, in the Middle East trying to arrange a cease-fire between the Israelis and Palestinians, to protest. The Israelis’ complaint is that the threat at the airport from the rockets is not real and that it serves as an incentive to the Palestinians to continue lobbing them into Israel. Coming at the height of the summer tourist season, the measure will also cost Israelis money.

It was not the point of the ban, which is clearly safety, but if it serves as an incentive to the Israelis to take steps to end the current hot war, underway now for more than two weeks with the casualty rate rising daily, so be it. Mr. Kerry undoubtedly has other U.S. foreign affairs issues to which to address his attention, including the deteriorating situations in Iraq and Afghanistan and relations with Russia over Ukraine. A resumption of Israeli-Palestinian talks over a real settlement of the problems between them could evolve from the current conflict, but at the moment seems too much to hope for.

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