Transport Minister: Foreign Airlines 'Surrendering to Terrorism'
Israeli Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz (Likud) told Arutz Sheva Wednesday about the efforts being made to persuade America's Federal Aviation Agency to go back on its decision to cancel flights to Israel.
"This decision is not proper and is a surrender to terrorism," Katz said. "Contacts are being made at all government and professional levels to change this decision, which has understandably impacted on European companies as well."
Several major European carriers, including Germany's Lufthansa and Swiss Airlines, were quick to follow the decision by US companies, after a rocket fired from Gaza struck the city of Yahud close to Israel's Ben Gurion international airport. Those airlines have since been joined by Austrian, Greek and British companies.
When asked how Israel was seeking to reassure foreign airlines that it was indeed safe to fly into Israel, Katz said that both the Iron Dome missile defense system and Ben Gurion airport's own security arrangements - both inside the airport itself and for aircraft - meant that there really is no reason to fear.
"We hope that those who chose to cancel will go back (on their decision). But in any event, we will continue to maintain civil aviation as normal; we will expand the activities of Israeli companies and of those foreign companies who are (still) flying."
Katz stressed that regardless of whether the companies went back on their decision to cancel, air traffic in and out of Israel would remain largely unaffected.
"Ben Gurion airport is open. I have instructed to use Ovda airport in the south for international flights. Most of those who planned to fly yesterday flew, and most of those planning to fly today will fly," he assured.
He added that he was working with Israeli airlines to help stranded Israelis return home, particularly from Turkey, where some 4,000 holidaymakers are waiting for a way back. Turkish airports are not allowing Israeli planes to land or take off there en-route to Israel, and so alternative plans are being drawn up
"The plan is that they will bring the travelers to somewhere nearby, and we will take them (from there)," Katz explained.
He vowed that not a single Israeli would remain stranded abroad, and insisted that the cancellation decisions would not prevent the IDF from completing its mission in the Gaza Strip.
"We are giving breathing space for the IDF to carry out its work in Gaza."