Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Border control

In the mid-afternoon cable news cycle (US East Coast), it was clear that the big crisis in Israel was not the hundreds of deaths in Gaza but the fact that foreign airlines had suspended service into Tel Aviv for 24 hours. In fairness to the cable news talking heads, they were clearly reflecting what they were hearing from the Israeli government. Anyway, it must have been one of those cognitive dissonance moments for Fox News viewers, inculcated in the belief that Europe hates Israel, to hear the list of mostly European carriers that normally fly to Israel.

Given that the Israeli government is usually portrayed as being strong in strategy and public relations, it seems like a strange blunder to make such a big deal about the flight cancellations. They've told the world their point of sensitivity. European airports have bad days for various reasons -- strikes and weather -- but after the disruption has passed, things return to normal. So the claim that it's concern about "economic impact" doesn't ring true. Instead it seems that international air service is one of those badges of being a western state that Israel wants -- while at the same time wanting a free pass on using heavy weapons in urban areas, because after all, Bashar al-Assad is worse.

Finally, there were some noises in the cable news cycle, presumably coming from Israeli officials, that the flight cancellation were disrupting Christian pilgrimages. There's an easy way for Israel to deal with that. They could just simplify admission procedures from Jordan at the Allenby Bridge, which on the West Bank side is already very close to Bethlehem and Nazareth. It might be another bout of cognitive dissonance for Fox News viewers to hear that it is possible to go from Jordan to Israel. But perhaps even worse, it would give western visitors using the land crossing an insight into what it's always like for Palestinians wanting to visit the territories.