Just days before the country enters the year's busiest travel period, Tourism Ministry workers greeted their new chief Sunday afternoon in a ceremony in Jerusalem.
Yitzhak Aharonovich, an Israel Beiteinu MK first elected to the Knesset last year, took over the ministry from outgoing minister Isaac Herzog (Labor), who had served in the post since last May.
A 56-year-old former deputy police commissioner, Aharonovich assumed the cabinet portfolio after the previous candidate for the post, Israel Beiteinu MK Esterina Tartman, withdrew her candidacy following accusations she had falsified sections of her resume.
A former director-general of the Dan bus company, Aharonovich praised Herzog's generally well-reviewed work as tourism minister, vowing he would "continue to develop" what he called one of the government's "most important portfolios."
Under Aharonovich's leadership, the ministry will focus on restoring tourism revenue to the levels it enjoyed before last summer's war with Hizbullah. Though foreign travel to Israel began to rebound soon after the fighting ended, tourism fell 4.5 percent overall in 2006, significantly above numbers from the height of the second intifada but still well below the all-time record of 2.41 million visitors who arrived in the country in 2000.
Uri Glisco, director-general of the Tourism Ministry's workers committee, welcomed the new minister and said he hoped Aharonovich would stay in the post longer than his predecessors. The Tourism Ministry has greeted a new chief nearly every year of his nine-year tenure in the ministry, Glisco said.
Herzog, who said he regretted not completing at least two years as tourism minister, is moving to the Ministry of Welfare and Social Services as part of the cabinet shuffle authorized by the Knesset last week.
Aharonovich, the Knesset's deputy speaker, will retain membership in the parliament's Jerusalem Lobby and previously served on the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.