It began with Delta Airlines rerouting a Tel Aviv bound flight to Paris and a further cancellation by the airline of all Tel Aviv bound flights indefinitely. It was soon followed by United, US Airways and KLM also cancelling their flights. Soon, the FAA got on the bandwagon and issued a twenty-four hour directive barring US carriers from flying into Ben-Gurion International Airport. European authorities followed and before you know it, Israel, a technologically advanced modern democracy became a No Fly Zone.
As communities across North America were rallying in support of Israel, the cliché associated with rallies -“that’s the least we can do”- quickly became the most they can do. After all, El Al Airlines, with its limited fleet, serves only a fraction of Israel bound travellers. As Israel effectively became disconnected, Hamas terrorism’s economic warfare seemed to achieve a potent victory. This time it was not armed by Iran, but by Israel’s allies. Declaring a no fly zone created an unintentional circuitous path to deligitimization – the kind that the BDS movement has been hatefully salivating for.
With Benjamin Netanyahu personally pleading with Secretary of state John Kerry to lift the ban and being denied, Israel and Israelis were not interpreting the flight ban as reason to halt the fighting, but the opposite. Israeli leaders were emboldened to make Israel a no fly zone for Hamas rockets. The relative normalcy afforded by the Iron Dome system proved to be insufficient. Even a single rocket landing immobilized trade, halted tourism, stranded Israelis abroad, effectively boycotted Israeli participation in international summer sporting events and caused massive economic damage – even if for only twenty four hours.
So as we waved flags across the ocean and sang Am Yisrael Chai, the IDF’s tactical mission became a strategic one overnight. The name Operation Protective Edge took on a new meaning. It went beyond the need to protect and secure the safety of Israeli citizenry, to guarding Israel’s status as a functional nation state.
As an author of four books on terrorism, no other Israeli leader is better equipped to understand the heightened significance of the military campaign. In his now famous Bar Ilan Speech, delivered on June 14, 2009 at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, Benjamin Netanyahu’s live broadcast address seemed to endorse, for the first time, the notion of a Palestinian state alongside Israel – with a caveat. Netanyahu insisted that as part of his proposal, a future Palestinian state would be fully demilitarized, with no army, rockets, missiles, or control of its airspace.
This flight ban may garner more support for Netanyahu’s position among more dovish opposition leaders and from the Quartet, EU, US Department of State and other peace catalysts. What is certain is that as the FAA ban is reviewed daily, Hamas’ summer harvest of apparent victories will be shorter then expected.