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Israel gets State Department travel warning changed

State Department travel warnings can have a dramatic impact on tourism. So the Israeli government was none too pleased when State last week issued a notice warning American travelers to learn the location of bomb shelters if they traveled to the Red Sea resort of Eilat because of a recent rocket attack.

Normally it can takes weeks, if not months, for State to update such warnings. But the agency did a remarkably quick turnabout after vehement complaints from Israeli officials, issuing a new warning this week that deleted the reference to Eilat.

"Clearly ,a particular country made its feelings known on this issue," State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Wednesday. "In retrospect, perhaps we did not have as vigorous a review of the proposal as was appropriate."

Israel's Tourism Ministry had complained that Eilat was unfairly singled out because the neighboring Jordanian city of Aqaba was also a target of the rocket attack, which killed one person, but no new warning was issued for Jordan.

Crowley said that the two embassies had decided to handle notice of the rocket attacks differently. Upon review, officials decided that the Eilat incident was better handled by issuing what is known as a "warden message" -- a warning by the embassy itself, rather than a warning by the State Department that is posted on its main Web site.

Crowley defended the shift by saying the rocket attack was a single event. "Normally, travel warnings reflect a broader trend, as opposed to one particular incident," he said. "We haven't changed our assessment of risk. We've only said that because we had a similar set of circumstances being treated different ways by neighboring countries, that the appropriate way to communicate this risk was through a warden message, not a travel warning."

Last week, the State Department dropped a warning to African-American travelers to Spain about possible racism there just as First Lady Michelle Obama arrived for a brief vacation.

By Glenn Kessler  | August 11, 2010; 4:32 PM ET
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What is so "remarkable" about it? Everyone with half a brain knows that Capitol Hill is Israeli-occupied territory. Why do Americans allow a foreign government to have a veto over ALL of their decisions?

Posted by: PeteMoylan | August 12, 2010 12:18 AM | Report abuse

Once again Israel has a "get out of jail free card"....The countries leaders boo-hoo and the US runs to console. The ban was put in place to protect, because of rocket fire....and they have now revised it because we all know if we dont Israel will stomp their feet...fall out on the ground and cry...Lets just move the entire continent to the US mainland.

Posted by: KraigRasool | August 12, 2010 9:15 AM | Report abuse

Aqaba was hit, but it probably wasn't the target. As these things develop, IF those who fired that rocket should try again, it is to be expected that their aim will improve. IF travel warnings are appropriate, it made sense to apply such caveats to the town likely to be attacked by rockets...purportedly Eilat.

In fact, these homemade rockets are more of a nuisance than an actual hazard.. far more people are killed in virtually every Israeli (or Jordanian) town by traffic accidents. Their significance is consistently overstated by an Israeli government that finds them useful to its own policies, programs and propaganda.

The travel warning was probably not appropriate in the first place, but Israel can't have it both ways. Either these rockets are a big threat, in which case tourists should be warned, or they are not, and Netanyahu's yahoos should quit pretending otherwise.

Posted by: Iconoblaster | August 12, 2010 11:56 AM | Report abuse

I agree that Israel has too much influence on our government. But if individuals and groups desire to risk their lives abroad, then they should research such before they arrive, with or without a State Department warning. I do agree that it will probably be safer at the resort in Israel than just about any major city in the US.

Posted by: sssallie51 | August 12, 2010 3:04 PM | Report abuse

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