Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu greets former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg at Ben-Gurion Airport, July 23, 2014..
(photo credit: HAIM ZACH/GPO)
In a clear rebuke to the Federal Aviation Authority’s decision to suspend US flights to Ben-Gurion International airport, former New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg expressed solidarity with Israel by eschewing his private jet to fly to the country on El Al Wednesday.
“I just hope they understand that this is devastating for a country like Israel,” said Bloomberg at the Jerusalem Press Club a few hours after being greeted at the airport by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
“It would be devastating to any country, and would be devastating to America if other countries did the same thing to us.”
Moreover, Bloomberg described Ben-Gurion as the best-defended airport in the world, which far exceeds American security standards.
“They have to understand that if there is any airport in the world that that is well defended it is Ben-Gurion Airport,” he said. “It has been around for a long time… and if you look at American airports, they are nowhere near as protected. We always find people walking across the runway at JFK… and we’re finding guns on planes after they go through security.”
Asked to comment on the FAA’s decision to renew the ban
, Bloomberg said the body should “look before it leaps.”
“I think they should take a look at what security means in the real world, and hopefully in another day they will stop this and let airlines fly here again,” he said.
In terms of the international media’s overwhelmingly skewed reporting against Israel as Operation Protective Edge enters its third week, Bloomberg denounced Hamas’ tactics of using women, children and the elderly as human shields.
“We’ve seen this method where people hide behind the most vulnerable and assume that the other side will be paralyzed and unable to attack,” he said. “We cannot let that happen.”
Bloomberg continued: “Sadly, the only way to stop the carnage is to exercise some force, and innocents will get hurt in that, but if you continue without doing that an awful lot of more people will die.”
The billionaire added that America must stand firmly behind Israel during its time of need.
“America has an obligation to support Israel and Israel has an obligation to support America, because if one fails both will suffer,” he said.
Barkat praised Bloomberg as a “true friend of Israel and Jerusalem.”
“Mike’s arrival in Israel and Jerusalem sends a message to the world that justice and morality are on our side in this battle for the safety and security of Israeli residents,” he said. “Mike’s support gives strength to the soldiers in the Israeli Defense Force as they carry out their mission to defend the State of Israel. We hope that our soldiers will complete their mission quickly and return home safely.”
Bloomberg was last in Israel in May to accept the first annual Genesis Prize at the press club, a $1 million award that he is donating to the organization’s contest for young social entrepreneurs.
The prize, endowed by the Genesis Philanthropic Group, awards the world’s leading contributor to “Jewish values,” with respect to philanthropy, social entrepreneurship, preserving human rights and generally improving the world through innovation and compassion.
The former mayor said he would use the million- dollar prize to fund the “Genesis Generation Challenge,” an inaugural global competition to find the “next big idea and invest in it to ensure the next generation of Jews will be inspired.”