Israeli Defense Minister Binyamin Ben Eliezer quashed Wednesday, April 25, any hope Israelis might have had of returning to the tables at the casino in the Palestinian city of Jericho.
Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said Tuesday that Israel had decided to ease its blockade on the ancient town of Jericho after receiving Palestinian assurances on security, though the move has not yet been implemented.
At the same time the Jewish state reiterated its ban on Israelis entering areas of the occupied territories under full Palestinian autonomy, including the popular Oasis casino.
"The Palestinians ... can do with the casino whatever they like ... It belongs to them - they can bring people in from wherever they want," Ben Eliezer told Israeli public radio Wednesday.
"But if you come and ask me if as defense minister I am willing to allow Israeli citizens to go into the casino, my answer is no. No with a capital 'N'!."
Before the Palestinian uprising erupted last September the Oasis, the only casino in Israel or the Palestinian territories, attracted 2,500 gamblers daily, mainly Israelis.
Palestinians are barred from the facility unless they have a foreign passport.
The casino, run by a consortium of Austrian banks, was badly damaged by Israeli tank fire last year but has now been repaired.
A fund controlled by Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has a stake of up to 30 percent in the Oasis.
Several Israelis have violated the ban on travel to the occupied territories since the start of the unrest, some deliberately and others by accident. There have been a handful of incidents where Israelis have been killed or kidnapped. — (AFP, Jerusalem)
© Agence France Presse 2001
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)