The State Department’s recent travel warning on travelling to Israel along with its warning about other Middle Eastern and African countries is nothing new.
What’s surprising about this warning is that Israel is classed with other countries whose government is unstable and/or plagued by internal violence and upheaval – Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria.
The fact that Egypt goes unmentioned raises serious questions as to whether these advisory warnings are publicized purely for the safety of American citizens or are motivated by political considerations as well.
There are grounds for those questions. In August 2010, responding to rocket attacks on Eilat and Aqaba, the State Department issued a travel warning to US citizens for Eilat and southern Israel, while leaving out the city of Aqaba in southern Jordan, adjacent to Eilat. The Israeli government protested and eventually the State Department agreed to remove the city of Eilat from the warning.
The State Department's current warning, addressing Jerusalem specifically as a place of danger – when in reality has been quite peaceful – meshes with other comments regarding Jerusalem and Israel made in the past.
Last March, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland refused to say that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. In late July, White House spokesman Jay Carney refused to acknowledge Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. His only answer to reporter’s questions on the subject was that “our position has not changed”.
Even more worrisome was a press conference in October, 2010, where State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley was hard pressed to admit that Israel is a Jewish State. Searching for words, stuttering and stumbling, he admitted that the US recognizes that Israel is, “as Israel says itself – is a Jewish state.”
The roots of his confusion may be traced back to 1953. In a speech given by Henry A. Byroade, Assistant Secretary of State in charge of the Near East, South Asia and African desks at the State Department. to the Dayton World Affairs Council, he said, “To the Israelis I say that you should come to truly look upon yourselves as a Middle Eastern state and see your own future in that context rather than as a headquarters, or nucleus so to speak, of a world-wide grouping of peoples of a particular religious faith who must have special rights within and obligations to the Israeli state.”