Israel: U.S. should revisit travel warning

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WASHINGTON -- Israel's tourism minister said he is "angered and outraged" that the U.S. State Department has not amended its long-standing travel warning for Israel, which urges U.S. citizens to defer visits to the country.

The travel warning for Israel, updated on April 17, cites "safety and security concerns in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza."

But Benny Elon, Israel's minister of tourism, said that the warning does not necessary reflect the situation in Israel.

"In June alone, 33,436 American tourists visited Israel, a 65% increase from last year, and the State Department is mistaken to not amend the warning immediately," said Elon in a statement. Elon is slated to visit the U.S. starting Tuesday until Aug. 19.

"It is a shame that while so many geopolitical issues have changed throughout the world since the Iraq War, including the amendment of travel warnings for American citizens to Holland, the U.K. and many other countries, the State Department, for political reasons still hasn't seen fit to amend the warning on travel to Israel," Elon added.

Elon said he intends "to raise this issue continually" during his visit, which includes stops in Atlanta, Georgia, and Memphis, Tennessee.

Elon also said there is congressional support to pressure the State Department into revising the warning.

"I'm sure when he is here, if he has an opportunity, he can talk to people about it, but these travel warnings are put in place because we are concerned for the safety of American citizens aboard," said a spokesman for the State Department. "They have no time limit, but they are updated periodically as information becomes available. Sometimes they are canceled as well."

To contact reporter Michael Milligan, send e-mail to [email protected].

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