OECD tourism confab to remain in Jerusalem


JERUSALEM (JTA) — A tourism conference will stay in Jerusalem following an agreement between Israel’s finance minister and the head of a Western economic umbrella group.

Yuval Steinitz promised the head of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Angel Gurria, that in exchange for not moving the biannual conference to Tel Aviv, Israel would keep a low profile and not make further political statements regarding the Oct. 20-22,conference, Ynet reported. Gurria also has agreed to visit Israel in the near future, according to the report.

On Oct. 8, the OECD warned Israel that it would cancel the conference unless the tourism minister retracted an assertion that the gathering signals recognition of the city as Israel’s capital.

Stas Misezhnikov, the Israeli tourism minister and a member of the hard-line Yisrael Beiteinu party, had told Haaretz that Spain and Britain are among the nations boycotting the conference because it is taking place in Jerusalem.

Misezhnikov went on to assert that the presence of officials from 21 other countries out of the OECD’s 33 "will be a declaration of intent and a seal of approval on the fact that we have a state whose recognized capital is Jerusalem."

That prompted a letter from Gurria to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu demanding a clarification, Haaretz reported.

"In order to go forward with the meeting on the current basis, the tourism minister should correct the misperception created and put the meeting in its proper perspective," Haaretz quoted the letter as saying.

Misezhnikov also said that OECD conditions for having the conference in Jerusalem included keeping all events in western Jerusalem. Palestinians claim eastern Jerusalem as their capital. Israel captured the eastern part of the city in the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed it.

Britain has denied that it is boycotting the conference.

Palestinian groups have been applying pressure on OECD members not to attend the conference if it is held in Jerusalem.

Delegates from countries including Austria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, South Africa, the Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, Estonia and Turkey are expected to take part in the conference.

Israel, with strong U.S. backing, gained entry this year to the OECD, which seeks to coordinate policies among the world’s leading market economies.

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