"Nobody is above the law in Israel" - Israeli Amb. Speaks out about Visa-free regime controversy
07 March, 2017
"Nobody is above the law in Israel" - Israeli Amb. Speaks out about Visa-free regime controversy
The visa-free regime between Israel and Georgia was, and is, rightfully considered a huge step toward closer ties between two nations that share a 26-century history of fraternity and friendship. There may be many a thing you can accuse Georgians
of, but Anti-Semitism would probably be at the very end of that list. Therefore, cries from deported Georgians that they were treated with disrespect at the Israeli border caused quite an uproar in Georgian media and society recently.

Wanting to hear both sides of the story, and from a reliable source at that, Panorama TV Show and GEORGIA TODAY spoke with the Israeli Ambassador to Georgia, Shabtai Tsur, who opted for a rather straightforward approach to the issue.

Serving in his second term as Ambassador (his first was in 2005-2008), Tsur was born and raised in Georgia, in the Vani region, and, in his youth, went by name Shota Tsotsiashvili. The Vani native left Georgia when he was 21 to study in Russia, before permanently moving to Israel. He now boasts 32 years of public service, having held posts as Advisor to the Prime Minister on Georgia and the South Caucasus, Honorary Consul of Georgia in Israel and, as mentioned, Ambassador. His second coming to his second homeland, as he calls Georgia, has, however, been somehow overshadowed by the recent deportation controversies, and he was keen to explain just what is going on at the Israeli border for Georgians.

“First of all, let’s talk numbers,” he says, visibly eager to underline the pros of the visa-free regime that was considered a major boon from Israel. “In 2015, around 70,000 tourists came here from Israel. In 2016, that number grew to 100,000. Similarly, more than 13,000 tourists visited Israel from Georgia. What we see from those numbers is a mutually beneficial tourist flow between our two countries. “

However, there are challenges and problems, too, a fact he’s willing to admit. “There are three types of tourist coming from Georgia,” he says. “First, the ‘real’ tourist, those that come and go back. Second and third, however, are more problematic – these are people who seek to work there, often illegally, or ask for asylum.”

“In 2016, when we looked at the statistics we were quite confused,” he confesses. “The numbers of those who illegally remained in Israel and asked for asylum had dramatically increased.” Looking at numbers wasn’t the only thing they did, though: a few weeks ago, Israel promptly recognized Georgia as a country of safe origin, which effectively rules out getting asylum in Israel on grounds of persecution or discrimination in Georgia.

“Nobody is above the law in Israel – not the prime minister, not the president, nobody. And that certainly includes tourists from Georgia,” Tsur says. According to his logic, an Israeli border guard shouldn’t be above the law, either, so how about investigating those claims from Georgian travelers that caused such a public outcry here?

“Every concrete issue will be looked at. The embassies of both countries, and foreign ministries – all of this is being discussed at the highest level. We are working very hard to make such things happen less and less often. Each and every complaint is monitored by the Georgian Consulate. And don’t get me wrong- I don’t deny anything; it’s possible somebody at the border made a mistake. When, out of 100 % of travelers, 80 % seems to be trying to stay illegally and engage in illegal activities, 1 or 2 % mistakes are to be expected. As bad as it is, such things happen in every country, at every crowded border. But rest assured, we’ll investigate every single issue,” he promises. And, he says, the tourist flow between the two countries is only going to get bigger.

“In 2017, there will be literally 100 flights per month. It’s really, really busy. So, no matter what some people might say, the visa-free regime between Israel and Georgia is doing just fine, and will continue to do so. The relationship between Israel and Georgia is as steady as ever,” he concludes reassuringly.

Vazha Tavberidze
Source: Georgia Today
Print
Other Stories
US Ambassador does not recognize borders mentioned by de-facto president of occupied Tskhinvali Region
"We do not recognize the borders mentioned by Mr. Bibilov, - the United States Ambassador to Georgia Ian Kelly said
EU Parliament says Georgia, Ukraine, Moldova could be considered for EU membership
Nine days prior to the start of Eastern Partnership Summit, the European Parliament called for deepening the European integration of Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova
Ex-minister about the integration of Georgia’s ministries of Environment and Agriculture
It seems strange that the Ministry of Environment is being weakened shortly after the elections of local self-governments
Mattis, Georgia’s Defense Minister Discuss Security Issues at Pentagon
A meeting held between United States Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and Georgian Defense Minister Levan Izoria aiming to discuss security issues and U.S.- Georgian security partnership
EU welcomes 16th consolidated report on Conflict in Georgia
The EU welcomes the Secretary-General’s 16th consolidated report on Conflict in Georgia.
Georgian government launches Abkhazian Language Protection and Development Program
The Georgian government has been working on establishment of the Abkhazian Language Protection and Development State Program,
Mike Goldwater on the Day Georgia “Lost” Abkhazia
September 27, the day Sokhumi fell to Abkhazian troops, remains one of the darkest leaves in Georgia’s modern history.
EU welcomes change of Entry/Exit System for stronger EU borders
The European Commission has issued the following statement after today’s adoption by the European Parliament
US Embassy congratulates Georgia on well-administered local elections
The Embassy of the United States congratulates the government and people of Georgia on yesterday’s well-administered local elections,
All polling stations data counted, Kakha Kaladze gains 51,13% of the votes
As reported by Georgia’s Central Election Commission,
Ex- Milan defender Kakha Kaladze becomes new Tbilisi Mayor
On October 21 Mayoral and city council elections were held in Georgia.
Alexandre Elisashvili congratulates Kakhi Kaladze on victory
Anyone should be able to recognize the election results.
Elections updated: Kakha Kaladze gets 51,06%, Aleksandre Elisashvili - 17,46%
According to the preliminary data of the Central Election Commission, Kakha Kaladze,
Edison Research exit polls final results say Kakha Kaladze gets 54% of votes
The final results of the exit polls, conducted by "Edison Research" have been published.
Edison Research Exit Poll Results - Georgian Dream received 58% of voters, National Movement - 16% in Tbilisi
According to the results of exit polls conducted by the Edison Research organization,
Kakha Kaladze gets 54% of votes, Zaal Udumashvili – 15% and Aleko Elisashvili – 14% - Edison Research exit polls say
According to the Edison Research exit polls, Georgian Dream Mayoral Candidate Kakha Kaladze has got 54% of the votes.
Local elections are underway in Georgia
Georgia’s President Giorgi Margvelashvili, former Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili, Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili and Georgia’s Patriarch Ilia II have already made their choices
Who will become Tbilisi Mayor? - Georgia holds local elections
Georgia holds elections of city councils and mayors.
Russia-Georgia conflict and its peaceful resolution to be main part of Georgia-EU dialogue – PM
The Russia-Georgia conflict and ways of its peaceful resolution will be one of the significant parts of the Georgia-EU dialogue,
NATO Parliamentary Assembly condemns Russia’s attempts of intimidation of neighbors who try to deepen relations with NATO
NATO’s Parliamentary Assembly condemns Russia’s attempts to intimidate and destabilize the neighbors
The UN Secretary General fully supports Georgia
The meeting between Prime Minister of Georgia Giorgi Kvirikashvili and UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres
US Ambassador - You can count on one hand how many countries recognize the independence of South Ossetia and none of them are in the EU or near Europe
You can count on one hand how many countries recognize the independence of South Ossetia and none of them are in the EU or near Europe,
Zurab Pololikashvili elected as UNWTO Secretary General
Ambassador Zurab Pololikashvili from Georgia has been elected as Secretary General
Ex-president Saakashvili faces criminal probe after illegal Ukraine entry
Mikheil Saakashvili faces criminal charges after entering Ukraine.
BBC: Georgia’s ex-president Mikheil Saakashvili 'forces entry' to Ukraine
Georgia’s ex-president Mikheil Saakashvili’s attempt to enter Ukraine
GEL Exchange Rate
Convertor
19.11.2017
20.11.2017
USD
1
USD
2.7268
2.7268
EUR
1
EUR
3.2176
3.2176
GBP
1
GBP
3.6097
3.6097
RUB
100
RUB
4.5750
4.5750
PHOTO OF THE DAY
Other Stories
The US Ambassador to Georgia Ian Kelly congratulates Georgia on Independence Day.
The regulations on the introduction of visa-free travel for citizens of Georgia have been officially signed in Brussels.
The entire Georgia is involved in Secret Santa game, which means that people are sending gifts to each other secretly
The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia is taking part in NATO Ministerial underway in Brussels, Belgium.
A special squad has been mobilized at the 48th polling station in Marneuli, Kvemo Kartli region.
Two politicians in Georgia have come to blows during a live TV debate ahead of the country’s parliamentary elections, Euronews reports.
The Georgian President and his wife are on a state visit to Israel. Giorgi Magvelashvili and the First Lady, together
Koba Subeliani, a member of the National Movement party and the parliamentary minority
According to Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili, the Georgian side will take part in the UN peacekeeping mission.
Asked about whether Georgia and Russia are moving towards a repeat of the war in 2008
GEL Exchange
USD
1
USD
2.7268
EUR
1
EUR
3.2176
GBP
1
GBP
3.6097
RUB
100
RUB
4.5750