Why are there still flights from coronavirus hot spot NY to Israel?

Former Israeli ambassador to the US Michael Oren said that it would not be a surprise if Israel decided not to block flights from New York out of concerns for US-Israel relations.

FILE PHOTO: International travelers arrive at John F. Kennedy international airport in New York City, U.S., February 4, 2017. The United States is screening visitors from Wuhan, China at JFK and at airports in Los Angeles and San Francisco for people who may have symptoms of a new virus (photo credit: REUTERS/BRENDAN MCDERMID/FILE PHOTO)
FILE PHOTO: International travelers arrive at John F. Kennedy international airport in New York City, U.S., February 4, 2017. The United States is screening visitors from Wuhan, China at JFK and at airports in Los Angeles and San Francisco for people who may have symptoms of a new virus
(photo credit: REUTERS/BRENDAN MCDERMID/FILE PHOTO)
With countries around the world closing their borders and nearly all flights to Israel canceled to quell the spread of coronavirus, commercial planes have still been arriving in Israel from Newark Liberty Airport, near New York City, almost every day.
New York State had almost 189,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus as of Monday morning, more than any country outside the US – including high-risk places like Spain, Italy and France – making it the current global epicenter of the pandemic. China reported over 82,000 cases on Monday, but US intelligence agencies believe Beijing is under-reporting the true number.
Israel stopped flights from previous virus hotspots like China and Italy in recent months, yet there is still a United Airlines flight from Newark, NJ, scheduled to arrive at Ben-Gurion Airport almost every day in the coming week.
In early March, when the outbreak in NY began, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the government opted to extend the rule requiring a two-week self-quarantine, from anyone returning from a number of countries with many cases of coronavirus to people returning from any country, rather than the specific American states that were problematic or the entire US.
At the time, Israel’s Channel 13 news reported that the jump from a few countries to the whole world came after US Vice President Mike Pence urged Netanyahu to “go global” rather than single out the US.
Asked this week if the current difference in policy towards the US and NY, as opposed to other areas with a severe coronavirus outbreak, is due to a fear of alienating Israel’s most important strategic ally, spokesman of the Israeli Embassy to the US Elad Strohmayer said “there is no connection to anything political and it’s not just the US.”
“Israel didn’t stop flights from coming from the entire world. Flights were stopped from specific places – but even then, there were still evacuation flights,” Strohmayer pointed out, adding that “it was the airlines that decided to cancel their flights.”
In addition to the United flight every day except the last day of Passover, several flights from Addis Ababa – as well as from Warsaw, Krakow, Wroclaw, Minsk, Tbilisi, New Delhi and Athens – are scheduled to land in Israel in the coming week.
Former Israeli ambassador to the US Michael Oren said that it would not be a surprise if Israel decided not to block flights from New York out of concerns over US-Israel relations.
“We back down all the time because of the US: It’s not unusual,” he said, pointing out that Israel does not push back against the US selling arms to Arab countries that could endanger Israel’s security. “It’s a question of what security means.”
“If the [Trump] administration made it clear it will view the cutback of flights from the US with extreme disfavor, that is something we have to take seriously as a strategic consideration,” Oren stated.
Oren also pointed out that New York is the city with the largest Jewish population in the world.


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