'We need to be realistic about Trump visit'

Tourism Minister Yariv Levin discussed with Arutz Sheva the impending visit of President Trump and its ramifications for tourism.

Shimon Cohen ,

Yariv Levin
Yariv Levin
Flash 90

Tourism Minister Yariv Levin referred in an Arutz Sheva interview to the upcoming visit of US president Donald Trump and the reports that there is friction over aspects of the visit and changes in plans to visit Yad Vashem, the Western Wall and Masada.

Can you calm us down and restore the feeling that Trump's visit is the same moving visit which the Israeli leadership hoped it would be?

There's no place for calm but rather to see reality as it is. On the one hand, there are positive elements such as the fact that the American president is coming here at the beginning of his term and the international backing he is receiving, as well as the important statements of the US's delegate to the UN. On the other hand, there are worrying things requiring our attention, such as the Western Wall incident. Even if it was orchestrated by State Department officials and not the administration, it did not receive a proper response from the administration. We also have to see if our demand to transfer the US embassy to Jerusalem will indeed be implemented.

How do we deal with the embassy issue?

Every representation of the matter has caused damage. The attempt by the Jewish Home party to present themselves as concerned by this matter as opposed to the Prime Minister caused damage, since Israel's position was wrongly presented by them. The prime minister in all of his conversations with the administration's officials insisted that this commitment be fulfilled and the attempt to present things otherwise created an effect which makes it more difficult for us to press for this to happen. I think that transferring the embassy would be an act of historic justice whose time has come and the moment there is an explicit commitment, we expect this decision to be implemented.

Is the focus on the decision to shorten the visit to Yad Vashem due to it justified, when other leaders also have shortened their visits in the past?

In a short and tight schedule it is normal for the president of the US [to shorten his visit] as he holds the most important position in the world. The visit to Yad Vashem itself is of symbolic importance but in order for it to have real meaning it is clear that 15 minutes are not enough to learn about this important place. But I would not jump to conclusions. The visit is still being synchronized and some of the rumours will turn out not to be true and I hope the Yad Vashem visit will turn out to be of significant length.

Does this visit have ramifications for Israeli tourism?

Every international personage who arrives here creates interest in coming to Israel. Certainly in the case of Trump who will arrive at the Western Wall and will not stay in closed political meetings, this will definitely contribute to exposing Israel as a tourist destination and will expose people to the existence of those sites.

We bring celebrities from different disciplines as well as entertainers to visit Israel since their pictures at tourist sites are uploaded to social media sites and receive significant exposure. These and other actions achieved results and the proof is that last month was a record-breaking month for tourism since the establishment of the state with 350,000 tourists entering Israel.