OECD Delegation to Skip E. Jerusalem Sites to Avoid Conflict

Tourism minister says he doesn't want this week's OECD conference to become political; Palestinians urge OECD members to boycott the meeting.

Under international pressure, Israel has decided not to take visiting tourism officials to Jerusalem's most famous holy sites because they are located in the disputed part of the city.

Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov said he doesn't want this week's meeting of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development to become political.

That means his counterparts will miss the Dome of the Rock, Western Wall and other holy sites which are located in east Jerusalem - the section of the city Palestinians hope to make their capital.

Old City of Jerusalem - Gora Berger
Gora Berger

The Paris-based OECD and Palestinians were angered when Misezhnikov was quoted as saying the conference was tantamount to international recognition of all of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

Misezhnikov insisted Monday he was misquoted.

Israel joined the club of free market democracies on May 10, in what Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer called "an important milestone for the integration of Israel into the global economy".

Meanwhile on Monday, the Palestinians urged OECD members to boycott the Jerusalem meeting.

Chief Palestinian peace negotiator Saeb Erekat said on Monday OECD members should "cancel their participation" in the October 20-22 annual conference to protest against Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem..

According to Mizeshnikov, 28 of the 33 OECD members have agreed to participate.

"It's a real honor for Israel, as a new member of the OECD, to host this summit," Mizeshnikov told reporters.

Israel's candidacy was accepted despite protests from human rights campaigners and pro-Palestinian groups.

Erekat accused Mizeshnikov in a statement of boasting in Israeli media at the weekend that playing host to the OECD in Jerusalem constituted "a seal of approval" for Israel's disputed claim to the city as its undivided capital, the same statement Mizeshnikov denied on Monday.