Israel flight ban 'prudent,' Obama says

President Obama on Thursday defended the Federal Aviation Administration's decision earlier in the week to ban flights to Tel Aviv, saying that it took "prudent action" based on facts and not politics or the country's relationship with Israel.

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In an interview with CNBC, Obama said the initial ban on Tuesday imposed by the FAA, days after a Malaysia Airlines flight was downed in Ukraine, "was based on Israel needing to show us that in fact it was safe for commercial airlines to fly in."

When Israel worked through and completed a checklist of concerns and convinced the FAA that it was safe to land a plane there, Obama said, "we moved forward."

"And by the way, the European governments in terms of the regulating their airlines, did the exact same thing," Obama added. "So I think what happened here was in light of some scary moments a couple of days ago, the FAA took some prudent action."

Republican Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas) accused the Obama administration of having launched "an economic boycott" against Israel by halting the flights.  

“The facts suggest that President Obama has just used a federal regulatory agency to launch an economic boycott on Israel, in order to try to force our ally to comply with his foreign policy demands,” he said.

The ban also coincided with Secretary of State John Kerry visiting Israel for negotiations on a cease-fire between the country and Hamas.

The FAA lifted the ban on flights to Israel early Thursday morning.