Texas Lawmaker: Was Intent Of Ban To Punish Israel Or Advance Cease-Fire Efforts?

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Questions remain about the Federal Aviation Administration’s ban on flights to Israel earlier this week and whether it was based on safety or politics. One U.S. senator is vowing to block Obama administration diplomatic appointments until he gets answers.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) is blocking confirmation of ambassadors and other diplomatic nominees until the FAA explains why it blocked flights to Israel after a rocket landed a mile from the Tel Aviv airport.

“The timing was such that this ban on flights from America was announced at the same time that John Kerry arrived in the Middle East; at the same time that John Kerry was announcing $47 million for Gaza — much or all of which will end up in Hamas’ hands, and the combination had the effect of imposing an economic boycott on Israel,” Cruz told “The Situation Room.”

Cruz wants to know why Israel was singled out while commercial flights can pass over other hot spots, including Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and the Ukraine — where a Malaysia Airlines airplane was shot down killing 298 passengers.

He also wants to know whether the intent of the ban was to punish Israel or advance cease-fire efforts, CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer reported.

“The questions I asked is where did this decision come from? Was this a political decision driven by the White House or was it a decisions from the professional staff of the FAA,” Cruz said.

Meanwhile, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said the FAA overreacted.

“The FAA has to be understanding that they’re functioning in a political context here, and some have said the chances of Hamas being able to shoot down a plane are less than the chances of a plane actually crashing, so FAA should be careful,” Schumer told Kramer.

He believes the international community should support Israeli war efforts in order to bring about Middle East peace.

“Let Israel finish the job,” Schumer said. “Let them get rid of the rockets, let them get rid of the tunnels.”

Other area lawmakers were also weighing in on the issue.

“This is one in which security trumped everything else and it was done intelligently in a short period of time,” Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) said. “With all due respect to Sen. Cruz, he sees a political bogeyman behind every action. The FAA was looking at the question of security of U.S. citizens traveling abroad.”

The Cruz-imposed logjam is holding up the appointment of ambassadors to Russia, France, Norway, South Korea and Turkey, as well as appointments to arms control and nuclear proliferation organizations, Kramer reported.

At an event Friday, New Jersey’s other senator, Cory Booker, had plenty of time to pose for pictures with constituents, but his staff said he was pressed for time when Kramer asked to speak to him about the controversial issue.

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