Israel Shuns Egypt Meet Over Visa Snub

Top Israeli official was denied an Egyptian visa; Israeli withdraws participation from regional conference in Alexandria.

The Israeli delegation to a regional conference on civil society scheduled to open last night in Alexandria withdrew its participation after the head of the Association of Contractors and Builders in Israel, Yossi Gordon, was not issued a visa for Egypt.

The delegation to the Euromed Summit of Economic and Social Councils and Similar Institutions was to include, in addition to Gordon, attorney Yehuda Talmon, the president of the Israel Economic and Social Council; as well as attorney Efraim Zilony, chairman of the Economic and Social Department of the Histadrut labor federation.

"The consul at the Egyptian embassy in Tel Aviv refused Zilony's visa application three times, but eventually approved it after some hassle," Talmon said. "But he informed Gordon by phone on Friday night that the Foreign Ministry in Cairo would not approve [Gordon's] entry into the country."

Talmon said he decided to cancel Israel's participation in the summit rather than attend with less than full representation, despite encouragement from European officials.

In addition, Talmon said, the heads of the economic and social councils of the European Union and Israel's Foreign Ministry resolved to register a protest of Egypt's actions.

According to Talmon, the refusal to issue a visa for Gordon was politically motivated. "Gordon visited Egypt 18 months ago as a tourist and obtained a visa without any delays," Talmon said.