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State goes after Ted Cruz on FAA's ban on flights to Israel


State Department Spokeswoman Marie Harf on Wednesday said Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) made "ridiculous and offensive" comments earlier in the day for criticizing the Obama administration's decision to temporarily ban U.S. flights to Israel, while at the same time continuing foreign aid that will go to the terrorist group Hamas.

In a briefing with reporters, Harf said the decision was made to ensure U.S. citizens are protected while Israel faces missile attacks, and said Cruz was out of line for suggesting any deeper political motives.

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"It's ridiculous and offensive, quite frankly," Harf said. "The FAA takes its responsibilities very seriously. I will speak for them in that case. They make these decisions based solely on the security and safety of American citizens, period."

Earlier in the day, Cruz said the move amounts to hurting Israel's tourism industry, which is already suffering because of missile attacks from Gaza. Cruz also said that while safety is of course an issue, Israel's airport has extremely high security protocols in place.

"Obviously, no one wants to place civilian travelers in harm’s way, and the recent downing of Malaysian Airways flight 17 by pro-Russian militants in Ukraine is a stark reminder of the dangers posed by regional unrest," he said. "But security concerns in Israel are hardly breaking news, and given the exceptional challenge Israel faces, Ben Gurion has rightly earned the reputation as one of the safest airports in the world due to the aggressive security measures implemented by the Israeli government.

Cruz also noted that Secretary of State John Kerry announced $47 million in additional aid to Gaza this week, which he said is "in effect $47 million for Hamas."

"Aiding Hamas while simultaneously isolating Israel does two things," Cruz said. "One, it helps our enemy. Two, it hurts our ally."

At the State Department, Harf said the government cares about Israel's tourism industry, but has other priorities as well.

"We care more about the rockets being stopped from coming into Israel to kill innocent civilians in Israel," she said. "We care more about getting a cease-fire, and we care more about protecting American citizens.

"Clearly, I think Sen. Cruz is completely wrong on this. We make decisions about security based solely on what's in the best interest of American citizens."

The FAA imposed a 24-hour flight ban on Tuesday, after a rocket landed one mile from Ben Gurion airport. The FAA extended that ban for another 24 hours on Wednesday.

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