Israeli journalist Ben Caspit, who is affiliated with the left, on Thursday evening blasted Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely over her decision that diplomats on official visits in Israel will be taken to the Kotel as part of their itinerary.
In a column on the website of the Ma’ariv daily newspaper, Caspit likened visits to the Kotel to being forced to stop in a church while visiting New York.
“I really do not know whether to laugh or cry," he wrote. “What’s going on with these people? Where did they come from and what exactly do they want? Perhaps we can refine this requirement and say that the tourist guide who will take these diplomats to the Kotel will be MK Oren Hazan or something,” added Caspit, referring to the new Likud MK who was recently embroiled in controversy.
"What does she want, Hotovely, that everyone will convert to Judaism? Why should we force people to come to the Kotel, is anyone forcing us to go to church when we are in New York? And what is the next step, anyone who wants a meeting with Bibi will be circumcised?" Caspit added sarcastically.
While Hotovely’s idea has surfaced before, this is the first time that the Kotel will be placed on visitors' itinerary as part of their official visit – making refusal to undertake the visit a severe breach of international diplomatic protocol.
Visitors will be accompanied by an official representative of the Foreign Ministry, who will explain the Kotel's importance and history to visitors.
The Foreign Ministry noted that at least half of the foreign dignitaries who come to Israel already visit the Kotel, usually in an unofficial capacity. Several have refused, citing as their reason the political difficulty of visiting a “disputed” site.
Hotovely said that there was no reason not to include the Kotel in official visits, as it was “at the heart of the political consensus in Israel. I see this new innovation as a symbol of our intentions to continue strengthening our position in Jerusalem."
"Adding the Kotel will help redirect our conversation with foreign diplomats who are usually taken to Yad Vashem, where they see our recent, tragic past, to a positive focus that takes into account 3,000 years of Zionism instead of just 100 years, and enhances the dialogue about Jerusalem.”
Arutz Sheva has learned that the move was coordinated in advance and received the backing of Dr. Dore Gold, director-general of the Foreign Ministry.