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Cablegate: Israeli Delegation of Six Arab Businesswomen Denied Entry

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Carol X Weakley 11/16/2006 03:23:31 PM From DB/Inbox: Carol X Weakley

Cable
Text:


UNCLAS TEL AVIV 04519

SIPDIS
CXTelA:
ACTION: PD
INFO: DCM AMB

DISSEMINATION: PD
CHARGE: PD

APPROVED: PAO: HKFINN
DRAFTED: ACAO: RWEBB
CLEARED: 1. CAO 2.IO

VZCZCTVI683
PP RUEHC RUEHAD RUEHAM RUEHJM
DE RUEHTV #4519/01 3190855
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 150855Z NOV 06
FM AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7618
INFO RUEHAD/AMEMBASSY ABU DHABI 1204
RUEHAM/AMEMBASSY AMMAN 1055
RUEHJM/AMCONSUL JERUSALEM 5054

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 TEL AVIV 004519

SIPDIS

STATE FOR ECA/MCROUCH
STATE INFO NEA/PPD AFERNANDEZ, DBENZE, NEA/IPA, NEA/PI
JERUSALEM PASS ICD

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KPAO OEXC SCUL KMPI IS
SUBJECT: Israeli Delegation of Six Arab Businesswomen Denied Entry
to Abu Dhabi to Attend Businesswomen's Summit

1. Summary: A group of six Israeli-Arab women traveling to Abu Dhabi
to attend a MEPI sponsored businesswomen's summit were denied entry
to the UAE on October 30. The six were held for 12 hours in
isolation under guard before being returned to Israel via Amman.
The group's connecting tickets from Amman to Israel were not valid,
and the six women were forced to stay in Jordan for two days, one of
which at their own expense. The women are asking for an explanation
from the conference organizers and reimbursement of their personal
expenses. The following information is based on a debriefing of the
six Israeli-Arab women and subsequent correspondence. End Summary.

2. On Monday, October 30, a delegation of six Israeli-Arab
businesswomen was denied entry to Abu Dhabi to attend the Broader
Middle East and North Africa (BMENA) Businesswomen's Summit. The
delegates arrived back in Israel on November 1. The delegation had
been invited by DOS and the conference organizers, the Abu Dhabi
Businesswomen's Association and the Beyster Institute of the
University of California at San Diego. The three-day conference,
which brought together about 250 women from the Middle East/North
Africa region who are dedicated to economic progress and positive
reform, was supported by the State Department's Middle East
Partnership Initiative (MEPI). Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy
and Public Affairs Karen Hughes attended the conference.

3. The delegation included five participants from previous MEPI
programs who were invited directly by MEPI and the Beyster
Institute. MEPI asked PD Tel Aviv to submit only one nomination for
the conference. The single nomination, made in response to State
118415 on July 27, 2006, constituted the entirety of PD Tel Aviv's
direct involvement in the Abu Dhabi conference. Prior to departure,
the Beyster Institute was in direct contact with the Israeli
delegation. PD Tel Aviv had no knowledge of the selection process
and was not asked by the Beyster Institute to assist in the travel
arrangements for the Israeli participants.

4. The original Israeli-Arab delegation consisted of seven members.
One returned to Israel from Amman before boarding the flight to Abu
Dhabi for unrelated reasons. The six Israeli women who continued to
Abu Dhabi were Raja Abu Ruken, Khadra al Sana, Jumana Boulos, Wafa
Haj, Ebtihal Sheety, and Laila Toukhi.

5. The Abu Dhabi Businesswomen's Association and Beyster Institute
had assured the delegation they would receive visas at the airport
upon arrival. The Israeli participants received numerous emails
(most notably on October 12, 15, 24, and 27) from Christina Kelly
and Anna Wood-Vasey of the Beyster Institute, which stated "your
visa has been issued and you will receive it when you go through
customs in Abu Dhabi (Wood-Vasey, October 24)." On October 27, the
participants received two separate emails assuring them all
arrangements had been made and that it was safe to travel to Abu
Dhabi.

6. The delegation's flight arrived in Abu Dhabi at 1:00 a.m. on
Monday, October 31. Upon landing, the Israelis were singled out and
taken off the plane by the UAE authorities to a VIP room where they
were told they would not be allowed to attend the event and that
they would have to return to Israel. At 4:00 a.m., they were
escorted to an isolated "military hotel" where they remained until
12:30 p.m. while arrangements were made to return them to Amman.

7. During the time they were held in Abu Dhabi, a man named "Sultan"
who claimed to be from the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs stayed
with them. He told them that the Emirate authorities had notified
the conference organizers a week before that the Israeli group did
not have permission to enter and would not be allowed to attend the
conference.

8. While being held in the VIP room, they were prohibited from
contacting anyone. When they managed to call Ms. Kelly, she told
them that she would fix the problem. She promised to contact them
soon, but never called them back. UAE authorities collected their
passports and tickets and kept them until the delegation was on the
plane out of Abu Dhabi. Throughout their time in Abu Dhabi the
women were constantly surrounded by security guards. Each woman was
accompanied by a security guard even while shopping for food and
other necessities at the duty free and while using the toilet.

9. "Sultan" came to the hotel at 10:00 a.m. on Monday, October 30,
along with "Fatmeh" from the Emirate Chamber of Commerce. They told
the delegation that they were arranging for the delegation's return
to Amman as soon as possible. The delegation attempted to contact
Ms. Kelly again from the hotel lobby. They left her several
messages to call them back on "Sultan's" mobile phone, but were
unable to talk to her again.

10. At 12:00 p.m. they were escorted by security guards back to the
airport and were given business class tickets on "Al Ittihad"
Emirate airlines, (Israelis are prohibited from traveling on this
airline). "Sultan" gave them a total of $1000 for all six of them
for one night's hotel in Amman before their connecting flight to Tel
Aviv. Due to a problem with the connecting tickets to Tel Aviv,
they were forced to stay two nights in Amman, one of which was at
their own expense. The women also arranged the connecting flight on
their own without assistance. They arrived in Israel on Wednesday,
November 1, at 4:45 p.m.

11. Upon arrival in Jordan, the delegation contacted PD Tel Aviv and
expressed their frustration over the situation. They feel they were
"abandoned, mistreated and humiliated." They are particularly
bothered by the conference organizers' failure to come see them to
explain the situation. They are waiting for an explanation of how
this incident took place. The participants were looking forward to
the summit; some of them were even scheduled to make presentations.

-------------------
PD Tel Aviv Actions
-------------------

12. PD Tel Aviv was made aware of the situation on Monday, October
30, after a phone call to the Embassy from NEA/PI's Sonia Franceski
in Abu Dhabi shortly before the delegation arrived in Amman.

13. Post MEPI Coordinator contacted the MEPI office in Washington on
Tuesday, October 31, for an update on the situation and to inquire
whether anyone from the Department had attempted to contact the
delegation in Amman to express our regrets. He also asked whether
the delegation would be reimbursed for their personal expenses
incurred on the way back.

14. PD Tel Aviv is pleased that most of our suggestions were
incorporated into NEA press guidance on the issue. The women
themselves strongly desire that this issue not be raised in the
media.

15. Post MEPI Coordinator met and assisted the delegation when they
arrived at Ben-Gurion Airport on November 1. He and an FSN
debriefed the six participants for nearly two hours at the airport.
The women stressed the "humiliating" way they were treated in Abu
Dhabi and their lack of contact with conference organizers and
Department representatives throughout their ordeal. As of November
14, PD Tel Aviv has no knowledge of any attempt by the Beyster
Institute to contact the women, despite a joint letter written by
the women on November 4 addressed to NEA/PI and the Beyster
Institute.

16. PD Tel Aviv is compiling all relevant documents and receipts to
pass on for reimbursement. We understand that NEA/PI sent an email
on November 1 to the women notifying them that their personal
expenses would be reimbursed and instructing them to fax all
receipts to the Beyster Institute. PD Tel Aviv strongly recommends
reimbursement for personal expenses incurred by the delegation.

-------------------
Continuing Concerns
-------------------

17. The women have expressed several concerns, and suggested actions
that would be helpful to them.

18. The six Israeli-Arab women feel they deserve a detailed
explanation from the Beyster Institute as to how this situation
occurred, why they were not contacted during or after the ordeal,
and the steps taken to assure that future Israeli participants in
DOS programs will not experience the same.

19. The women were told repeatedly throughout their time in Abu
Dhabi that they had attempted to enter the UAE illegally. They fear
that this suspicion of criminality will reflect negatively on them
and cause them difficulty within their community and should they
wish to travel throughout the region at a later date. They desire a
written statement from UAE authorities and clarifying that they were
not suspected of criminal activity. This is especially important to
them, as they come from small, conservative communities where these
rumors could adversely affect their reputations and their
businesses.

20. The women recognize the value of such programs, and hope that
Israeli-Arabs will continue to be included in future Department
sponsored regional conferences. They fear that the difficulties
they faced will lead to the exclusion of Israeli participants. The
women were very proud to have been invited to the conference, and
many had been scheduled to present their business models. They
strongly believe that their participation in these types of events
promotes peace and understanding, and is an opportunity to
demonstrate how the different peoples of the region can co-exist.
They feel that this opportunity was "unreasonably taken" from them,
and desire to be included in another conference in the future.

21. They ask for reimbursement of personal expenses incurred as a
result of their denied entry into Abu Dhabi.

22. PD Tel Aviv believes that the women's concerns are valid and
supports their requests for written explanations and apologies,
financial restitution, and inclusion in a future conference of this
type. PD Tel Aviv is a strong proponent of these types of programs
and can attest to their positive results for post's MPP goals.
CRETZ

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