No decision on Ukraine visa requirement

PM postpones cabinet vote after Lieberman, Meseznikov and Yishai fail to reach an agreement.

February 1, 2010 00:30
1 minute read.
No decision on Ukraine visa requirement

yishai. (photo credit: Archives)


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Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu decided on Sunday to postpone a cabinet vote on the cancellation of visa requirements for Ukrainian tourists after ministers failed to reach an agreement on the matter.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Tourism Minister Stas Meseznikov, both from Israel Beiteinu, are in favor of canceling all visa requirements between Israel and Ukraine, claiming that canceling the visa would boost tourism and foreign relations. They point to the cancellation of visa requirements from Russian citizens in 2009, which led to a major increase in Russian tourism, as an indication of what is likely to happen when Ukraine visas are no longer required.

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Opposing the move is Interior Minister Eli Yishai, from Shas. Yishai said that canceling the visa requirement for Ukrainians would lead to an increase in prostitution, human trafficking and other crimes.

He cited a Justice Ministry report that states Ukraine is the central source of human trafficking to Israel as a reason to keep the requirement, though he agreed certain restrictions could gradually be eased.

Yishai received reinforcement from former Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz, who wrote that gradually decreasing requirements was in Israel’s interests.

Meseznikov insisted those precautions are unnecessary.

“When the issue of Russian visas was on the table, there were also concerns of increased crime and those fears proved wrong,” he said.

“Since then the number of Russian tourists has gone from 100,000 to 400,000 a year and trade and diplomatic ties have improved. The same will happen with our Ukrainian friends.”

“The dark days of the early ’90s, when every blond-haired woman was suspected of being a practitioner of the world’s oldest profession and every male immigrant from the former Soviet Union who brought over some belongings was suspected of being a member of a crime family, are over and I hope they never return,” said Meseznikov.

In 2009 73,000 Ukrainian tourists visited Israel. The Tourism Ministry believes there is a potential for more than 200,000 Ukrainian tourists a year.

Netanyahu said that he favored the cancellation and urged the relevant ministries to take actions to promote it.

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