Japanese Ambassador to Israel Hideo Sato has filed an official complaint with the foreign and defense ministries after security guards at the Kirya base in Tel Aviv prohibited two Arab-Israeli drivers working for the Japanese embassy from leaving their vehicles to purchase food at the military canteen, the Yedioth Ahronoth daily reported Sunday.
The drivers, both residents of Jaffa, were driving the Japanese defense minister and members of his delegation. Jewish drivers of other cars in the convoy were permitted to leave their vehicles, the report said.
The incident occurred on April 30, as the Japanese defense minister arrived at the Kirya base for a meeting with his Israeli counterpart Ehud Barak. The minister was accompanied by eight senior Japanese army officers.
The convoy parked in the Kirya compound, and as the officials made their way on foot to the meeting, the drivers stepped out of their vehicles in order to go to the canteen. However, according to Ambassador Sato, Defense Ministry security guards immediately approached the Arab-Israeli drivers and demanded that they remain in their vehicles. The drivers presented their Israeli identification cards, but the guards still refused to allow them to leave their vehicles. Jewish drivers and a number of Filipino drivers were permitted to go to the canteen.
Ambassador Sato's driver, a Jewish Israeli, tried to convince the security guards to allow the Arab drivers to leave their vehicles, but to no avail. According to the Japanese embassy, the security guards kept watch over the Arab drivers for the duration of the meeting.
The ambassador was shocked by what he referred to as a "regretful" and discriminatory act.
The Defense Ministry said, "Security regulations forbid delegation members and their drivers from walking around the Kirya compound on their own, regardless of their descent. The incident in question will be examined to make sure these regulations were followed."