Israeli Exceptionalism – According to the State Department

The State Department issues Travel Warnings to countries around the world when "long-term, protracted conditions that make a country or region dangerous or unstable, recommending that Americans avoid or consider the risk of travel to that country or region.

It then lists the countries and regions which meet those criteria.


On July 13, 2012 two American tourist were kidnapped at gunpoint in the Egyptian Sinai peninsula by Bedouin tribesman.

The State Department has issued no travel warning for Egypt, or the Sinai peninsula.

This kidnapping followed a previous kidnapping of American tourist in the Egyptian Sinai peninsula on February 4, 2012.

The State department has described these incidents as, quote, a "multiple kidnappings in the Sinai of U.S. citizens over the past four years, including U.S. citizens entering Sinai from Israel or transiting Sinai to Israel. Kidnappings of foreign tourists in the Sinai have increased since January 2012. The danger of overland travel in the Sinai is significant and overland travel from Israel to the Sinai is strongly discouraged."

Yet, the State Department has issued no travel warning for Egypt, or the Sinai peninsula.

On August 5, 2012, there was a terrorist attack in Egypt, on the Sinai-Israel border. The perpetrators, members of a terrorist group active in the Egyptian Sinai peninsula, had killed 16 Egyptian soldiers, then went on to force their way into Israel with an apparent goal to attack a civilian Israeli town nearby.

The terrorist were quickly killed and their two vehicles were destroyed in a coordinated air and land Israeli operation.

The State Department has issued no travel warning for Egypt, or the Sinai peninsula.

A few days earlier, on August 2, 2012, rockets were launched from the Egyptian Sinai peninsula, landing in the Jordanian Red-Sea resort town of Aqaba, and the near-by Israeli Red-Sea resort town of Eilat.  One Aqaba man has been killed, 5 others were injured. No casualties have been reported in Eilat.

Egyptian forces were reportedly combing the Sinai peninsula for vehicles allegedly used in the launch of this rocket barrage on Israel and Jordan.

This time around, the State Department has issued a travel warning, but only for Israel.

No travel warning has been issued for Egypt, the Sinai peninsula, Jordan or Aqaba.

The travel warning that has been issued on August 5, 2012, included the line, "rockets have been fired recently into the Eilat and Aqaba areas. U.S. citizens in Eilat and southern Israel are advised to ascertain the location of the nearest bomb shelter."

No similar warning was issued for Jordan.

In response, On Monday, August 6, 2012, Israel's Tourism Ministry complained that the warning unfairly singled out Eilat for precautionary advice but not Aqaba, which is next door in Jordan.

The Israeli complaint said that "This advisory gives a prize to terror and undermines regional stability and the sense of security that Israel gives to everyone who enters the country…. Differentiating Israel from its neighbor that actually suffered loss of life is improper and lacks balance."

On August 10, the State Department issued a new travel warning for Israel, which replaced the August 5th notice and doesn't mention Eilat at all, only saying, "U.S. citizens in the area should be aware of the risks and should follow the advice of the Government of Israel's office of Homefront Command."

Still, no similar warning was issued for Jordan.

When questioned by reporters, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley explained that the change was made in part because there was a disparity between the Israeli travel warning and the lack of a similar warning for Jordan.

"I'm not denying it's unusual to change a travel warning two times in two weeks," said a State Department official, speaking on background. The official said State took the blame for the error.
"We listened to what Israel had to tell us but it was a process failure here at the Department," the official said.

To date, no State Department travel warning has been issued for Egypt, the Sinai peninsula, Jordan or Aqaba.

The State Department's travel warning for Israel, however, still stands, alongside some other countries whose governments are unstable and/or plagued by internal violence and upheaval, such as Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria.


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