Israeli airline El Al said it would not cancel any flights as air travel to Israel from all American carriers and several European ones came to a halt on Tuesday after the Federal Aviation Authority banned US airlines from traveling to and from Ben Gurion Airport for 24 hours.
"There is no chance we will stop operations," an El Al spokesman told the Post.
In labor disputes with the government, El Al has argued that it is the only airline the country can rely on to continue flying during tough security times, and that Israel should foot more of the bill for its security needs. During the 1991 Gulf war, every airline but El Al suspended service to Israel.
Hamas has explicitly targeted the airport in hopes of stopping or slowing air traffic. Earlier in the conflict, it lobbed a handful of rockets in the direction of the airport, suspending traffic there for nine minutes.
"The armed wing of the Hamas movement has decided to respond to the Israeli aggression, and we warn you against carrying out flights to Ben-Gurion airport, which will be one of our targets today because it also hosts a military air base," a statement by the group said at the time.
In an interview with Channel 2, Katz added that he believed the decision was an automatic reaction to the rocket landing, and hoped to convince them to reinstate flights on Wednesday.Maybe. This suspension could have really serious consequences, and some senior ministers in the government ought to get involved. I think it's a bit above Katz's grade level.
Yet the cancellation of flights, should it continue for a significant period of time, could have a greater impact on the economy. A May report by the Bank of Israel found that business travel to Israel tends to be more resilient than leisure tourism in the face of security problems.
Without ways to get into the country, however, business travelers, who have historically accounted for 12-20% of travelers to Israel, will also be kept behind. Worse, the precedent of flights canceled due to security may deter them from future business dealings.
On the other hand, the economic effects of a one-day suspension would be negligible, according to Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce Uriel Lynn.
"Is it affecting Israel's business now? No. It's 24 hours. It's not a big deal. We have telecommunications infrastructure that helps us get business done," Lynn told the Post.
The chances of a longer suspension seemed unlikely, he added, given Hamas’s inability to strike at the airport up until now. America’s political stance on terrorism and alliance with Israel, Lynn offered, would likely affect the FAA’s decision.
"The moment they forbid flights to Israel, they strengthen Hamas, who say, ‘Great, we're succeeding in isolating Israel, we're fulfilling our goals.' I don't think the FAA want to do that," he said.What could go wrong?