Deputy FM to require foreign dignitaries to visit Western Wall

Hotovely wants to add Old City to itinerary for visiting diplomats, even though world doesn’t recognize Israeli sovereignty there

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's religions and Diaspora affairs correspondent.

Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely announced plans to include the Old City of Jerusalem in the official itinerary of visiting dignitaries Thursday.

The Foreign Ministry’s travel plan for foreign diplomats requires a visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem, but out of deference to countries’ issues with the status of the parts of Jerusalem over the Green Line, visits to the Old City were hitherto without official representation of the Israeli government.

Though many foreign dignitaries visit the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and other Christian sites in the Old City, this is done only with the required security personnel and no government representative.

Hotovely, a deputy minister without a dedicated minister above her, will now seek to change that protocol. Her new itinerary will include a guided tour of the Old City and the Western Wall, Walla said.

Tzipi Hotovely in the Knesset. (Abir Sultan/Flash 90)
Tzipi Hotovely in the Knesset. (Abir Sultan/Flash 90)

Hotovely’s decision came after discussion with Foreign Ministry Director-General Dore Gold. The two determined that, although important, Yad Vashem and the Holocaust are only one aspect of the State of Israel’s identity.

The move may well draw criticism from members of the international community, which does not recognize Israeli sovereignty over areas of Jerusalem conquered by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War.

Tensions over the issue in the United States resurfaced most recently last month when the Supreme Court upheld a State Department decision to list the birth place of people born in Jerusalem by the city’s name, and not “Israel” as with those born in other parts of the country.

According to sources within the Foreign Ministry, it is unclear how many countries will cooperate with the proposed itinerary, Walla said.

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