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Ne'eman. To head committee
Photo: Ido Erez
Lieberman. Claims victory
Photo: Gil Yohanan
Yishai. In charge of permits
Photo: Gil Yohanan
Government reaches agreement on Ukraine visa requirement
Cabinet decides to launch negotiations with Ukrainian government, appoint ministerial committee to look into proposal. Both Shas, Yisrael Beiteinu claim victory
Shas-Yisrael Beiteinu battle ends with compromise: The cabinet decided Sunday to launch negotiations with the Ukrainian government on a mutual exemption of tourist visas. The government also decided, however, to appoint a committee to look into the negotiations. The reservations raised during the talks will be submitted to the government's approval.

 

The compromise was supported by most cabinet ministers. All of Shas' ministers, Social Affair Minister Isaac Herzog (Labor) and Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz (Likud) abstained.

 

The dispute began following Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman's plan to grant a visa exemption to Ukrainian tourists visiting Israel, in exchange to a similar exemption from the Ukrainian government to Israeli tourists.

 

The Foreign Ministry said that Ukraine supports Israel and that tourism from Ukraine could help absorb immigrants and promote joint business. In addition, Lieberman claimed that the tens of thousands of Israelis seeking to visit the grave of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov in Uman need a exemption.

 

But the Shas party, headed by Interior Minister Eli Yishai, warned that a full exemption would encourage international crime and human trafficking. According to Yishai, professional opinions show that Ukraine is a center of international crime and trafficking, and granting a sweeping exemption may put Israel in danger.

 

Majority for Yisrael Beiteinu in committee

The ministerial committee appointed to examine the negotiations with Ukraine will be headed by Justice Minister Yaakov Ne'eman, and its members will be Foreign Minister Lieberman (Yisrael Beiteinu), Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov (Yisrael Beiteinu), Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch (Yisrael Beiteinu) and Interior Minister Yishai. Ministers Herzog and Sofa Landver (Yisrael Beiteinu) will act as observers.

 

Senior Yisrael Beiteinu officials claimed victory due to the fact that negotiations were launched and that the party has a majority in the ministerial committee. Shas officials said, on the other hand, that no decision would pass without the interior minister's approval, as he is in charge of providing entry permits.

 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed the compromise, saying that the ministerial committee's conclusions would be brought to the government's approval before an agreement is signed with Ukraine.

 

"The decision balances between all of the State of Israel's national interests. On the one hand, we want to have close relations and tighten the cooperation with Ukraine, while on the other hand Israel will continue to fight human trafficking and international crime in accordance with its principles," he said.

 

Minister Lieberman said during the discussion, "In light of our successful experience with Russia, and on the backdrop of the great appreciation and importance of our relations with Ukraine, which supports Israel in important discussions in the world, it is very important that negotiations for a mutual visa exemption between the two countries are being launched."

 

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