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Obama to CNBC: FAA Israel Decision Not Based on ‘Politics’

At the very end of an interview with CNBC’s Steve Liesman Thursday, President Barack Obama addressed the accusations, from Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and others, that the Federal Aviation Administration’s decision to ban U.S. flights from landing in Israel for 48 hours was politically motivated.

Obama called the move “purely technical,” saying the United States does not make “decisions when it comes to airline safety” based on “politics” or “even our strong alliance with Israel.”

He elaborated:

“The initial ban that was imposed by the FAA was based on Israel needing to show us that in fact it was safe for commercial airlines to fly in. They worked through a checklist of concerns and mitigation measures that needed to be taken. Having completed those, and convinced the FAA, we moved forward. And by the way, the European governments in terms of the regulating their airlines, did the exact same thing. So I think what happened here was in light of some scary moments a couple of days ago, the FAA took some prudent action. But it also engaged with Israel and Israel was able to answer those questions.”

After the FAA announced the ban on Tuesday, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg swiftly flew to Tel Aviv on an El Al plane to demonstrate just how safe it was to land at that airport. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly confronted Secretary of State John Kerry about the ban during a phone call that day.

The concern for Israel and its allies was that Hamas would view the ban as a victory, possibly emboldening its rocket campaign. Those fears were given credence when a Hamas spokesperson admitted that Israel’s Ben-Gurion airport was, in fact, a target for the rocket strikes.

Watch video below, via CNBC:

[Photo via screengrab]

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