Ministers balk at high hotel costs ahead of Brazil environmental summit

Government asks minister to be billeted by local Jewish community; Abbas to lead delegation in hopes of upgrading PA’s status

Home Front Defense Minister Gilad Erdan (photo credit: Gideon Markowicz/Flash90/File)
Home Front Defense Minister Gilad Erdan (photo credit: Gideon Markowicz/Flash90/File)

Just three weeks before the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) is scheduled to open in Rio de Janeiro, the Israeli government has not assigned a minister to lead the official delegation because the cost of accommodation and security is far too pricey.

According to Army Radio, the ministers are afraid of public outcry over the costs of attending the summit, since a hotel stay for a minister attending the conference is prohibitively expensive. The prime minister  has reportedly asked Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan to seek accommodation with members of the Jewish community in Rio.

Erdan told Army Radio Tuesday morning that one night in Rio could cost $1,000 — because not only are hotels overpriced, but a government minister attending an international convocation requires tight security, which is also paid from the public purse.

He also said that the Israeli delegation includes some 50 participants, both public officials and representatives of private companies.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will lead his delegation to the conference, which is run by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), since, according to media reports, he is hoping to use Rio as a way to advance the PA’s status in the eyes of the international community.

According to Israeli media reports from early May, the PA will ask UNEP to recognize it as an “observer state” at Rio+20, rather than its current status of “observer entity.” This is reportedly part of the Palestinians’ plan to gain international recognition for statehood.

The Environmental Protection Minister also warned on Army Radio that the Palestinian delegation is expected to stir up trouble for Israel during the course of the conference, citing past examples as strong proof that Israel must participate in the summit.

The UNEP conference, marking the 20th anniversary of the Rio Earth Summit on sustainable development, will bring together UN member nations to renew their commitment to environmental goals and to promote sustainable development. Numerous world leaders, senior government representatives, and participants from the private sector are expected to attend the summit, including Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

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