US ambassador to tackle travel warning

Ezra rejects State Dept. report calling organized crime a threat to tourists.

gideon ezra 298 88 aj (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
gideon ezra 298 88 aj
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
US Ambassador Richard Jones said on Tuesday he would work to change a paragraph in the State Department's travel warning to Israel that calls organized crime a threat. Jones made the pledge during a meeting with Internal Security Minister Gideon Ezra, who said the situation wasn't as described in the report. The paragraph, which was added to the updated warning that was issued on February 27, says violent confrontation between organized criminal organizations has led to the death and injury of innocent bystanders in incidents throughout Israel. "Such incidents in the past have involved the use of bombs, grenades, anti-tank missiles and small arms fire, and have taken place in Tel Aviv, Caesarea, Ramle, Acre, Hadera, Arad and the Galilee," the warning says. Embassy spokesmen Stewart Tuttle said the paragraph was added after several events involving organized crime. In December, an anti-tank missile landed on the street in front of the building where suspected crime boss Assi Abutbol lived, while he was also the subject of a failed assassination attempt in January. In the same month, a fight at the Daniel Hotel in Herzliya led to the stabbing of alleged underworld figure Amir Mulner. The warning also tells US citizens "to carefully weigh the necessity of their travel to Israel in light of the risks noted." Meanwhile, during the meeting, Ezra asked why there has been no change in the situation of Jonathan Pollard, who was in jail in the US for spying for Israel, especially since former Soviet spies had been freed. He didn't answer the question, said Superintendent Yehuda Maman, Ezra's spokesman. Tuttle said: "The position is basic. The case is closed and he's serving his sentence. More specific questions have to be referred to Washington, as it's not the ambassador's responsibility."