Israeli Tourism Minister Opens Door

PRESS RELEASE - Israel Ministry of Tourism

The Israeli Tourism Minister Ruhama Avraham-Balila recently wrote to the Tourism Ministers of Jordan and the Palestinian Authority

"Close cooperation between Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Authority in the field of tourism can be a positive force in improving the economy and image of the entire region as a tourism destination."

The Tourism Minister, Ruhama Avraham-Balila, wrote to her counterparts in Jordan, Tourism Minister Maha Khatib, and in the Palestinian Authority, Tourism Minister Dr. Khuloud Daibes on the occasion of her recent appointment.

In her letter, Tourism Minister Ruhama Avraham-Balila noted that the fact that, for the first time, women ministers are at the head of the Tourism Ministries of Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority represents a unique opportunity to increase cooperation between the Tourism Ministries and develop new thinking on realizing the tourism potential of the region.

Tourism Minister, Ruhama Avraham-Balila: "Close cooperation between Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Authority will promote the regional tourism industry as well as the region's image and contribute significantly to the region's economic development, and we, as women, have been offered the opportunity to implement this."

   Fred Schlomka's Comments
   It will be interesting to see how far this cooperation develops. Israeli tour operators tend to be
   jealous of their territory and currently steer tourists away from the West Bank except of a quick
   half-day tour to Bethlehem. Palestinian tour guides, with a few exceptions, are currently forbidden
   to bring tour groups into Jerusalem and the rest of Israel. Likewise military regulations forbit
   Israeli tour guide, indeed any Israeli, from entering the towns governed by the Palestinian
   Authority. Palestinian buses are also forbidden from traveling West of the Green Line.

   Quite apart from the political situation, it will take a great deal of political will by the Israeli   
   government to loosen the current restrictions and allow the free flow of vehicles, tour guides,
   and tourists. It remains to be seen if Tourism Minister Avraham-Balila's intentions are honest, and
   whether she has the political clout to implement change.

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