Most nations in the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) are ignoring a call by the Palestinian Authority to boycott a major bi-annual tourism conference that opens in Jerusalem Wednesday.
At least 24 of the 33 OECD nations are attending, while Turkey, Belgium, Iceland, New Zealand, Sweden, Ireland and South Africa, are boycotting the conference following PA claims that doing so would damage its claims over northern, eastern and southern areas of the city that were restored to Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War.
Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov said that 28 countries, including non-member countries, will attend. He added that no official tours will be led in those areas, although the delegates are welcome to tour on their own. The Western Wall and the Temple Mount, located in the Old City that was under Jordanian occupation from 1948-1967,are among the most popular sites for tourism to Israel. According to the ground rules set by the OECD and Israel, they will be out of bounds for official tours by the delegates.
The OECD accepted Israel as a member earlier this year, and the choice of Jerusalem as a venue for the convention was a feather in the cap for Israel.
However, Misezhnikov raised the ire of the Palestinian Authority when he stated that the meeting "will be a declaration of intent and a seal of approval on the fact that we have a state whose recognized capital is Jerusalem." The Arab League sent out a letter calling on OECD members to boycott the event.
The OECD demanded clarification from Israel that there were no political implications in holding the conference in Jerusalem. PA negotiator Saeb Erekat tried to convince OECD countries that their attending the conference would be a de facto recognition of Israeli jurisdiction over the united capital.
Minister Misezhnikov insisted he was misquoted and issued a statement that "the existence of this summit in Israel is a very good example of how the members of the OECD value Israel as a very strong state economically and in tourism."
The tourism conference will be held at the Jerusalem International Convention Center (Binyanei Ha'Uma) and will focus on Industry and Policy Approaches to Foster Green Growth in Tourism.
Misezhnikov opened the conference Wednesday morning, telling delegates that “this is an exceptional occasion for the State of Israel as we are today inaugurating the first historic OECD event taking place in Israel."