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Interview With Jerusalem's Mayor Nir Barkat And Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg

Aired July 23, 2014 - 16:01   ET


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN GUEST HOST: Billionaire Michael Bloomberg, former mayor of New York, flew into Tel Aviv on an Israeli airline, El-Al, calling the flying restrictions a mistake that gave Hamas a -- quote -- "undeserved victory."

The former mayor is sitting down with our own Wolf Blitzer, who is standing by live in Jerusalem -- Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Brianna, thanks very much.

And Mayor Bloomberg is here, together with Nir Barkat, the mayor of Jerusalem.

Good to have you guys in Jerusalem.

This decision that you made, Mr. Mayor, why are you here right now? Tell our viewers back home.

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, FORMER MAYOR OF NEW YORK CITY: Well, I just wanted to do something personally to show my support for standing up for what's right.

I think Israel is doing that. Hamas is trying to kill the Palestinians and kill the Israelis, and somebody has got to say that they have got to stop this. And then along comes the FAA, which I think made a mistake. I hope they will rectify it soon, but they said they didn't want American planes flying into the world's most secure airport.

And so I decided I would take a trip over here on the world's most secure airline going to the world's most secure airport. It's a good lesson for all of us how to run security. Unfortunately, in America, too many times we find people walking across runways, people carrying guns and getting through security onto planes, baggage not being claimed afterwards.

And so it's a good lesson for us how to run an airline and how to run an airport and I think the FAA should try to make sure that American airports and American Airlines follow what is done here. And we certainly don't want to stop flights into airports in America. It would be devastating for America. It's devastating for Israel when you stop flights in.

BLITZER: Well, what do you mean, I just want to clarify -- when you say Hamas is trying to kill Palestinians? BLOOMBERG: Well, Hamas is hiding among Palestinians and firing

rockets at the Israelis, knowing full well the Israelis have no choice but to do anything they can to stop the carnage of the rockets falling on Israeli citizens and knowing full well that if Israel does come in and do that, civilians, sadly, are going to also suffer.

BLITZER: The whole notion of coming here, the FAA has extended another 24 hours this ban on United, U.S. Airways, Delta, the major U.S. carriers.

BLOOMBERG: All registered -- planes registered to the United States, including private ones.

BLITZER: But don't you think they're primarily concerned -- their job, these experts at the FAA, is to protect American passengers. And they saw this rocket come into -- near Ben Gurion Airport yesterday, land about a mile away. And they say they want to err on the side of caution, especially after what happened in Ukraine with the Malaysia airliner.

BLOOMBERG: I'm sure they do, but if you have a standard, you would close every airport in the United States. You would close down every airline.

Unfortunately, our security isn't very good then. The real world is that there are things going near airports all over the world. Ben Gurion Airport, because Israel has been threatened since it was formed in 1948, is the most secure air airport. El-Al, because it is the national airlines of Israel, is the most secure airline.

And so we have got to do is say, you have to take reasonable precautions, but you cannot shut down everything just because one terrorist some place on the other side of the world says, I'm going to be a threat.

BLITZER: Here's what folks are going to say. You're a pilot. We know you're a pilot.


BLITZER: But these are experts at the FAA. Are you suggesting that the FAA is being politicized, if you will?

BLOOMBERG: I have no idea. You will have to call the FAA.


BLITZER: But the FAA in their statement, they're...

BLOOMBERG: No, I didn't write the statement. I don't know what they said. You can't put words in my mouth, Wolf.

BLITZER: I'm going to tell you what they said.

BLOOMBERG: I'm just telling you what I think about the FAA. They are well-meaning. It's a great organization. They make airlines

and airports safe in America, but not as safe as Ben Gurion and El-Al are. And the fact that one rocket falls far away from this airport, a mile away, doesn't mean you should shut down air traffic into a country and paralyze the country.

BLITZER: Let me ask the mayor of Jerusalem, Mayor Barkat

Here's what the FAA said today: "The agency is working closely with the government of Israel to review the significant new information they have provided and determine whether potential risks to U.S. civil aviation are mitigated, so the agency can resolve concerns as quickly as possible."

Here's the question. Do you trust the FAA that it is providing accurate information to pilots, airlines and the American traveling public that maybe it's not a wise time to fly in and out of Israel?

BARKAT: Well, the Israeli government and the Israeli air force and Israeli security forces care about Americans and Israelis the same, about anybody.

So I anticipate that we're talking about rockets that are fired indiscriminately. This is not a missile, not a guided missile like the one that took down the plane in Russia. And if we would have thought that there is a risk for anybody, I would call Michael and say don't come.

On the contrary, this is an indiscriminate rocket. We know how to protect it. Follow our strategy. Follow the Iron Dome. If it would have been a problematic missile, rocket, we would have taken it down.

So the security in Ben Gurion and in Israel is as good as it gets, and I want to repeat and thank Michael for his leadership in coming here. The reality is that the risks coming to Israel is minimal. And if it would be larger, we would take the initiative and tell everyone not to come here.

BLITZER: You know that as soon as the FAA announced that it didn't want U.S. carriers to fly to Israel, the Europeans basically did the same thing.

BLOOMBERG: That's not true. British Airways had the courage to fly.


BLITZER: I was going to say, Air France, Lufthansa, KLM, most of the major European airlines aren't flying in and out of Israel right now either.

BLOOMBERG: British Airways is. El-Al is. There are other airlines that are.

And they have got to make their own decisions. But we have got to stand up and do what's right. You can't just get cowed when somebody says something and everybody goes on the side of ultimate caution. That's how terrorists win, Wolf. Can't do that.

BLITZER: Here's the statement from Hamas today. And I want both of you to react to this. This is a statement from Fawzi Barhoum, the Hamas spokesman.

"The resistance success in stopping the air traffic and isolating Israel from the world is a great victory for the resistance."

They're pleased.


BLOOMBERG: I probably don't agree with very many things Hamas says, but that is clearly true.

Somebody who didn't come close to doing any damage at Ben Gurion Airport, didn't come close to doing any damage at any airline has paralyzed air traffic, which is the only way we get around this day and age, in and out of another country. If they were to say that about JFK, what would you expect us to do?

BLITZER: Mr. Mayor, what do you say when Hamas boasts that this is a great victory for them, the decision by the FAA to stop U.S. carriers from flying in and out of Israel?

NIR BARKAT, MAYOR OF JERUSALEM, ISRAEL: If somebody scares you and goes boo and you get scared, then it's your problem. We're not scared.

We think it's a non-issue. If we thought it's an issue, we would probably guide all, including and maybe first of all El-Al, to maybe do something else than the normal. But, right now, residents of Israel, Americans, Europeans fly all airlines. They're all the same for us

And the reality is that if Hamas goes boo and you get scared, you're helping Hamas get its goals.

BLITZER: You spent most of the day here in Israel.


BLITZER: As you know, a couple of days ago, the State Department issued a travel advisory saying Americans shouldn't come for nonessential visits to Israel or the West Bank.

BLOOMBERG: Couldn't disagree with them more.


BLITZER: What has it been like? What have you seen that -- you have been here several times.

BLOOMBERG: Everybody seems comfortable. Everybody thinks they're well protected by an army and an air force that knows how to fight and is out there trying to protect them.

And when they walk down the streets, when they send their kids to school, when they go to the parks, when they get to a concert, they feel safe. If you're not -- if you don't feel safe here, I don't know where you would feel safe. And I think the State Department is just overreacting in typical bureaucratic fashion.

BLITZER: Political reasons for that?

BLOOMBERG: That's -- why would you think that, Wolf?

BLITZER: Do you think it -- I'm asking you.

BLOOMBERG: Don't be ridiculous. Why would you think that?

It's an outrage for you to accuse one of our agencies...

BLITZER: I'm not accusing any -- I'm just asking.

BLOOMBERG: By asking the question, you're implying that our government does things for political reasons. And maybe every once in a while, they do. But it's your job to prove it.

Just the allegation against our government, I personally take as an offense.


BLITZER: No, I'm just asking you if you thought that there was some political motive behind the travel advisory or the FAA decision.

BLOOMBERG: Number one, I wouldn't know.

BLITZER: Because a lot of people in Israel do, you know.

BLOOMBERG: I don't know. You don't know. And the other people don't know.

But just the -- the tone of the question of trying to create dissension, it is insulting to America.

BLITZER: What do you think?

BARKAT: Well, when terrorists try to terrorize us, the reality is that their ability is minimal, especially what the Israeli government and the army does in protection and security, and in offense, by the way, same.

You walk the streets of the city of Jerusalem, speak to people. We just met a group of American teachers that came in for a week. And we asked them, how safe do you feel? They feel safer than they do at home, at least as good, if not safer.

And so you walk the streets, you go to the restaurants, you go to every -- all around the country, practically, and people are very cautious, but running their life as usual. And we don't get scared from terrorists. As a matter of fact, we will haunt them and hit them.

BLITZER: You know, so much of Israel's economy is based on tourism. It's a huge export.

BLOOMBERG: It absolutely is.

BLITZER: But the tourists are not coming right now, because they're worried about what's going on.

BLOOMBERG: Well, tourists -- why do you think that?

BLITZER: Because there is a war with Hamas going on. Sirens are going off.

BLOOMBERG: All I know, if the airplanes can't fly, the tourists can't come.


BLITZER: Even before that, but now especially.

BLOOMBERG: I have never seen statistics that say tourism slowed down.

Now you're going to see an outflow of people from the around the world who want to come here to demonstrate that they value their freedoms. And if you take away the freedoms of the people here, you will be taking away their freedoms, no matter what country they come from.

BLITZER: Tourism is down, though, right?

BARKAT: Well, one new tourist that just came here tonight, and I want to thank Michael for his leadership.

And the reality is that it's not real. And that's what terrorists try to do. They try to terrorize you. They try to fear you. And the best way to fight terrorism is exactly go on with your normal life. Do the right things.

BLOOMBERG: And that's what we did in New York City. We didn't let the journalists scare everybody away.

More people live in downtown New York than before 9/11. More businesses are down there. Today, it's become a thriving community. And all of those people, the talking heads who kept saying it was the end of the world for New York, they couldn't have been more wrong, because New Yorkers and Americans pulled together. And you see the same thing happening over here of Israelis and people in Jerusalem.

BLITZER: Mr. Mayor, thanks very much for joining us.

BLOOMBERG: Wolf, all the best. Thank you.

BLITZER: Mr. Mayor, thanks to you as well.

BARKAT: Thank you as well, Wolf. You are also...

BLITZER: I have been here for almost two weeks.

BARKAT: How secure do you feel?

BLITZER: I feel very secure.

BLOOMBERG: But you want to make sure that's on television?

BLITZER: It's on television. People are watching you right now back in the United States.

BLOOMBERG: Way to go.

BLITZER: They will be watching you around the world on CNN International.


BLOOMBERG: Everybody watches CNN.

BLITZER: Gentlemen, thanks very much for joining us.

BARKAT: Pleasure.

BLITZER: Brianna, you heard it right here, the former mayor of New York, the current mayor of Jerusalem -- back to you in Washington.