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Cablegate: Herzog Laments Timing of Security Crises On

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TEL AVIV 002787

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/14/2016
TAGS: ECON ETRD PREL PGOV PTER KWBG JO IS ECONOMY AND FINANCE
SUBJECT: HERZOG LAMENTS TIMING OF SECURITY CRISES ON
TOURISM INDUSTRY

Classified By: Ambassador Richard H. Jones for reasons 1.4(b) and (d)

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SUMMARY
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1. (C) In a meeting with the Ambassador on July 12, Tourism
Minister Isaac Herzog indicated that Israel would soon
retaliate against targets in Lebanon for Hizballah's attack
across Israel's northern border. Herzog lamented the timing
of the dual crises in Gaza and Lebanon, claiming the
deteriorating security situation would ruin what had
otherwise been a record year for tourism to Israel. He said
that Israel remains committed to former Tourism Minister (and
current Finance Minister) Avraham Hirchson's project for a
Christian heritage park near Lake Kinneret. Herzog expressed
embarrassment at hearing the Ambassador's report of an
American visitor's detention and harassment by security
officers at Ben Gurion Airport and promised to address the
incident with the head of Israel's security service. Herzog
also requested that the Ambassador re-examine language on
organized crime in the Department's Travel Warning for
Israel. End summary.

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HERZOG ON CRISIS WITH LEBANON
-----------------------------

2. (C) In a meeting on July 12, Tourism Minister Isaac Herzog
(Labor) told the Ambassador that the Hizballah incursion
across Israel's northern border and kidnapping of two IDF
soldiers "required action." The Ambassador agreed, but
cautioned that Israel's retaliatory action should be focused
on Hizballah rather than the Lebanese government, and
Israel's rhetoric should also concentrate on its sponsors,
Syria and Iran. Herzog questioned what Israel would gain
from this approach, and the Ambassador explained that
attacking the Lebanese government and Lebanese infrastructure
would likely elevate popular Lebanese support for Hizballah
while diminishing Israel's support from the international
community. Herzog confided to the Ambassador that Prime
Minister Olmert and Defense Minister Peretz are well aware
that "they aren't Sharon," and that they "don't want to
appear castrated" to either the Israeli public, or Israel's
enemies. Herzog suggested that a public statement of support
from the USG or White House would help shore up Olmert
politically and enable him to target his response.

--------------------------------
INVESTING IN EVANGELICAL TOURISM
--------------------------------

3. (C) Herzog lamented the timing of the dual crises in Gaza
and Lebanon, claiming the deteriorating security situation
would ruin what had otherwise been a record year for tourism
to Israel. The Minister said that Evangelical Christian
tourism from the United States was an important component of
the 37-percent rise in 2006, and commented that his ministry
had recently opened an office marketing to Evangelicals in
Los Angeles. According to Herzog, former Tourism Minister
(and current Finance Minister) Avraham Hirchson continues to
support a commitment he had made to the Evangelical community
to build a Christian heritage park near Lake Kinneret.
Herzog said that Hirchson was working on legislation to
purchase, zone, and allot 200 dunams of land to the
non-profit National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) for
construction of the Christian tourist attraction.

4. (C) The Ambassador asked Herzog if the ministry's plans
for Evangelical marketing would benefit the Galilee's
dwindling Arab Christian community. Herzog responded that he
had employed an Arab Christian from Nazareth as his liaison
between the Evangelical community and the Galilee Christian
community. Herzog also remarked that Christian and Druze
villages had recently been designated a "special priority"
for economic development, and that the construction of new
hotels in the region would help with local unemployment.
(Comment: Herzog was likely referring to a recent amendment
to the 2002 Capital Investments Encouragement Ordinance that
will classify all minority settlements -- including
recognized Israeli Arab towns and villages -- as Development
Area "A" priority regions. The Law for the Encouragement of
Capital Investments provides financial assistance to
entrepreneurs for building factories, hotels and tourist
attractions in Development "A" areas. End Comment.) The
Ambassador encouraged Herzog to work with American
universities to market Israel, including the Galilee region,
as a safe destination for American students to learn Arabic
from native speakers. Herzog was intrigued by the idea and
said he would enlist an Israeli academic to help him research
it further.

--------------------------------------------- -----
NEGATIVE EFFECT OF SECURITY PRECAUTIONS ON TOURISM
--------------------------------------------- -----

5. (C) The Ambassador asked Herzog if he was aware of the
deterrent effect on tourism of the security procedures at Ben
Gurion Airport. Herzog said that he had heard of the
problem, and that he was gathering evidence of abuses to
convince security officials that a better solution must be
found. The Ambassador recounted the recent case of a young
American woman who was detained for several hours, rudely
interrogated, stripped naked, and searched -- evidently
merely because her American passport showed that she had been
born in Egypt. Herzog said that the incident was
"embarrassing," and asked the Ambassador to send him the
details of this particular incident, as well as any others
that occur. He added that he would include them as evidence
in his argument to the head of Israel's security services.

6. (C) Herzog requested that the Ambassador re-examine
language on organized crime in the Department's Travel
Warning for Israel, and that it be removed if possible. The
Ambassador assured Herzog that he would review the language
when the warning is next revised. (Comment: Herzog was not
aware that the Travel Warning already differentiates between
the risks of traveling to the West Bank/Gaza and travel
within Green Line Israel. End comment.)

********************************************* ********************
Visit Embassy Tel Aviv's Classified Website:
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/nea/telaviv

You can also access this site through the State Department's
Classified SIPRNET website.
********************************************* ********************
JONES

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