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Israel's Visa-Free Tourism Policy

No visa-free entry to Israel for Ukrainians yet

Roni Sofer  Jan 31, 2010

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided to postpone by one week coming to a decision on granting a visa exemption to Ukrainian tourists visiting Israel.

The delay comes on the backdrop of two opposing bills on the issue presented to the cabinet, one by Yisrael Beiteinu in favor of the move, and one by Shas opposed to the move. Netanyahu commissioned Cabinet Secretary Lee Hauser to reconcile the two sides.

Earlier Sunday the prime minister addressed the debate surrounding Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov's bill to cancel the visa requirement and expressed his sweeping support for the move.

As was reported in Ynet, outgoing Attorney General Menachem Mazuz supported Interior Minister Eli Yishai's stance against the move. Mazuz explained, "Ukraine is a source of prostitution and human trafficking."

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, however, did not heed the attorney general's advice. "We will exempt Ukrainian citizens from the visa requirements. We made a similar move with Russia, and tourism quadrupled. As a result, thousands of jobs were created," Netanyahu explained.

For the first time since the government was formed, the cabinet will discuss two contrary bills. One bill, submitted by the Interior Ministry, proposes that a gradual process of granting visas to Ukrainian citizens be examined. The other bill, put on the table by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, calls for a full visa exemption to be instated.

Prominent among those opposed to any exemption is Minister Eli Yishai. He said during the meeting, "Ukraine is one of five states that give scathing international criticism (of Israel)."

He explained, "I support giving a visa exemption to citizens from the US and France, but I have a problem with a similar, ungraduated move for the citizens of Ukraine."

Tourism Minister Misezhnikov, who initiated the bill, said during the meeting: "The era of stigmas from the 90s that every blonde girl who came here is suspected of being non-kosher has passed."

Misezhnikov also addressed Mazuz's opposition, claiming that it is disproportionate. "It is fitting to grant visas to the citizens of Ukraine, which supports Israel in every international forum. This decision will increase tourism and jobs. It has already been proven in the past that claims like those being made by the Interior Ministry are groundless; see the case of allowing visas to Russian citizens."

No visa-free entry to Israel for Ukrainians yet
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