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Barack Obama Defends Israel Flight Ban as ‘Safety’ Measure

President Obama said the Federal Aviation Administration ban on Israeli flights was based purely on safety considerations.

“The initial ban that was imposed by the FAA was based on Israel needing to show us that in fact it was safe for commercial airlines to fly in,” Obama said Thursday in an interview with CNBC.

“They worked through a checklist of concerns and mitigation measures that needed to be taken. Having completed those and convinced the FAA we moved forward,” he said. “And by the way the European governments in terms of regulating their airlines did the exact same thing.”

The ban, which lasted 36 hours from Tuesday noon to Wednesday midnight, eastern U.S. time, was imposed hours after a rocket launched from the Gaza Strip during the current war landed in a town a mile away from Ben Gurion International airport.

Israel’s government and a number of pro-Israel groups had said the ban was excessive and unmerited.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), a likely presidential candidate in 2016, said the ban was a means of pressuring Israel to accede to a U.S. proposal for a cease-fire in the Gaza Strip fighting, which Obama administration officials described as “ridiculous.”

Obama said neither political considerations nor the close U.S.-Israel relationship would influence any decision to impose a ban.

“We have not made decisions when it comes to airline safety based on not just politics but even our strong alliance with Israel,” he said. “We have to just look at the facts.”

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