Palestinian Tourism Minister Hulud Deibas sent a letter to all countries invited to take part in the International Tourism Conference in Jerusalem scheduled to take place later this month and urged them to boycott the event, Ynet learned.
The letter was sent last Friday. "The dispatch of official representatives constitutes recognition of occupied Jerusalem as Israel's capital," the letter stated.
Some 30 foreign tourism ministers were invited to take part in the conference which was organized by the Tourism Ministry and the Jerusalem Municipality. The conference is slated to discuss various aspects of Israeli tourism, the future of global tourism and economic trends.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov, head of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and other senior officials are slated to speak during the event. Israeli state officials now fear another embarrassment looms.
"The participation of official international elements in this conference is problematic, especially during this critical time of an international effort to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and establish Jerusalem's permanent status," Deibas told Ynet. She believes that a boycott will create the necessary momentum "to end the occupation and achieve peace."
"The Jerusalem issue is a political one, east Jerusalem is occupied territory and sending foreign government envoys constitutes recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital," a senior Palestinian official told Ynet. He stressed that the Palestinian Authority would not have asked for a boycott had the conference taken place in Tel Aviv or any other city inside the Green Line.
Thus far no participant has canceled his arrival but it is feared that some countries will take advantage of the sensitive political situation to distance themselves from the event.
'Boycott will hurt PA'
Tourism Minister Misezhnikov regretted his Palestinian counterpart's move. "Tourism is a bridge for peace, dialogue and understanding among nations and financially helps the PA as much as it does Israel," he said. "The conference can be a confidence building measure and I hope and at the end of the day rational considerations will guide the Palestinians."
The Jerusalem Municipality said in response: "The International tourism conference is being held as part of Jerusalem's branding as the leading city for international gatherings in Israel. The Jerusalem Municipality will continue working to increase the number of incoming tourists, which raises the quality of life for all sectors."
Elior Levy contributed to this report
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