I’m just going to come out and say I put little very little stock in this Al-Jazeera news piece (for reasons I will defend), but the innuendo is too enticing not to explore.
The New York Times reports that intelligence behind the March in-flight electronics ban came from Israel. It further reports that the discussion now underway to expand the ban to flights to the USA originating in Europe also comes from Israeli-gatehered intel. Intelligence reportedly revealed ISIS has been experimenting with technology that can discreetly place bombs in laptop computers.
As a result, the U.S. government banned all large electronic devices from eight nations, including:
- Saudi Arabia
- United Arab Emirates
All are Muslim-majority nations.
Now comes the Al-Jazeera report. Quoting a former CIA operative named John Kiriakou, it questions the intelligence itself, wondering how Israel would have obtained it.
Then comes the hammer—
I won’t be surprised if it turned out that Israel acted in its own interests to disrupt the Middle Eastern airlines business by throwing its own wrench into the whole thing.
Al-Jazeera is a Qatar-based news agency that seeks to be neutral in its reporting, but like all new agencies its bias sometimes seeps out.
We must examine motive. Are we to believe that Israel is really passing along intelligence in order to harm Gulf carriers? Just to be vindictive?
I am highly skeptical because I see no rational reason behind such a motive. Surely this cannot be about protecting Israeli flag carrier El-Al. Naturally, Gulf carriers serve all the cities El-Al does (outside of Israel). But El-Al is also one of the most unique airlines in the world. It has a fiercely loyal following (as we saw at the Freddies) and a totally different business model than the Gulf Carriers. It caters to passengers traveling to/from Israel rather than modeling Tel Aviv as a global transit hub like Dubai or Abu Dhabi. Furthermore, its pricing and onboard service standards are not analogous to Gulf carriers.
In other words, El-Al doesn’t truly compete with the Gulf carriers. Al-Jazeera should have mentioned this.
Would Israel undermine Gulf carriers to help its European and American allies? Ask yourself this: why would Israel squander “political capital” to do this? To what end?
You can see I have many more questions than answers. But I think the answer is clear: whatever Israel’s motive in sharing intelligence about ISIS, it was not to undermine Gulf competition.
I argued that whether deliberate or not, the in-flight electronics ban represented U.S. protectionism. I stand by that assertion. But the idea that Israel’s motive is the same strikes me as highly unlikely.