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Ben Gurion Airport Photo: Yaron Brenner
Ben Gurion Airport Photo: Yaron Brenner

VIPs harassed at airport, Foreign Ministry complains

Report issued by Foreign Ministry reveals airport officials ignore requests to allow diplomats, guests of foreign embassies to enter Israel without facing rigorous security checks. 'This kind of treatment harms Israel's image abroad,' Israeli envoy says

Itamar Eichner
Published: 07.26.07, 09:04 / Israel News

Foreign diplomats and dignitaries face constant harassments during security checks at Ben Gurion Airport, the Foreign Ministry charges in a new report, claiming that such treatment severely harms Israel's image abroad.


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The Airport Authority, on the other hand, states that the inspections are vital to ensure passengers' security and safety.


Several days ago, the renowned British violinist Nigel Kennedy was detained for a security check at the airport, although his details had been relayed to the airport's officials in advance, in order to prevent any unpleasant incidents.


In another incident, the members of a French musical ensemble were detained for a three-hour inspection upon their arrival in Israel several weeks ago, and all their instruments have been seized and only returned to them in France a week later, some of them damaged.


In this case too, the personal details of all the ensemble's members, who were invited to Israel as guests of the French Embassy, were relayed to the Airport Authority well ahead of their arrival.


Following the incident, Anita Mazor, cultural attaché at the Israeli Embassy in Paris, wrote the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, "We are all aware of the importance of security checks, but this kind of behavior, not to mention the seizing and sabotaging of musical instruments, are unacceptable."


'Airport officials ignore requests'  

Another prominent figure, legal advisor to the British Foreign Office Daniel Bethlehem, was also recently held for checks at the airport because his name sounded "Palestinian" to the security guards.


Foreign Ministry official Ran Gidor wrote in the report that attempts to arrange for the smooth passage of foreign embassies' guests through the airport, are repeatedly disregarded by the airport's officials.


The Israeli Airports Authority in response said that "As everyone (except for the Foreign Ministry) knows, the terror threat on aviation is a strategic threat and every country in the world takes measures to prevent and thwart this threat, including conducting security checks to passengers.


"The security division is not subordinate to the Foreign Ministry, does not report to the ministry and will not apologize to anyone for acting to defend the lives of passengers."


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