Avi Nissenkorn: Don't sacrifice the tourism industry for COVID-19

The former minister, who currently serves as chairman of the Israel Hotels Association spoke about Netanyahu and the danger posed to democracy as well as the damage COVID-19 has done to tourism.

Avi Nissenkorn attends an emergency conference on disasters at construction sites in Israeli, at the Knesset, on May 27, 2019 (photo credit: NOAM REVKIN FENTON/FLASH90)
Avi Nissenkorn attends an emergency conference on disasters at construction sites in Israeli, at the Knesset, on May 27, 2019
(photo credit: NOAM REVKIN FENTON/FLASH90)

"I was Justice Minister at a critical point in time for Israeli democracy and fulfilled my role in the best way. To a large extent, I prevented the collapse of democracy. The previous government headed by Benjamin Netanyahu tried to take over the legal system and politicize the appointment of the Attorney General and state’s attorney and judges." Nissenkorn said in a recent interview with Maariv. 

The former minister, who currently serves as chairman of the Israel Hotels Association, added: "There has been a trend to turn the justice system into a system on behalf of Netanyahu's government.” He also said that there was an attempt to weaken the Knesset by ruling via emergency orders without the Knesset's approval. He’s very proud of preventing this move.

Asked if he contributed to Netanyahu not being in power today, he said that Netanyahu was not the main issue. “When you try to take over the legal system and prevent the transfer of a state budget, that is the real problem. I prevented the collapse of the legal system.” He added that when you nod yes or shake your head no to Bibi, this reduces the tension of the circumstances. Nissenkorn added that Bibi started dangerous processes that he himself prevented, and that he prevented serious damage to democratic processes and the economy.

When asked if he regretted leaving Blue and White in favor of forming a new party, he replied: "I’m not sorry.  It’s true that I left Blue and White and then I didn’t succeed because I chose the wrong political framework, and the result speaks for itself."

Referring to the crisis in the hotel industry, Nissenkorn added that for almost two years, tens of thousands of hotel workers have been in a state of shock and hover between hope and despair. He added that it’s illegitimate to sacrifice the tourism industry and the livelihoods of tens of thousands of workers on the altar of fighting COVID.

Tourism industry protests outside Finance Ministry, June 30, 2020 (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)Tourism industry protests outside Finance Ministry, June 30, 2020 (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

"For decades, billions of shekels were invested in infrastructure and training for [the tourism] industry. This is an economic sector that encompasses a national infrastructure and has a lot of working hands. The government must act immediately to find solutions for the industry and its employees."

He adds: "Inbound tourism must be encouraged, and with all due respect to COVID-19, the country must not be closed. Hotels can also be sustained with differential property taxes that take into account occupancy. Only in Israel is property tax uniform regardless of occupancy, in comparison to Europe, where property taxes are determined by actual occupancy."