The Maldives government has announced its decision to ban Israeli passport holders from entering the country. A measure taken in response to public anger over the war in Gaza. The announcement was made by President Mohamed Muizzu’s office, comes during growing international fallout for Israel including impacts on business, academia, and now tourism.

Maldives to Ban Israeli Passport Holders Over Gaza War

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The Maldives’ President Mohamed Muizzu has resolved to impose a ban on Israeli passports. The official statement did not specify when the new law would take effect.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry has recommended that its citizens avoid traveling to the Maldives including those with dual citizenship.

The ministry advised Israeli citizens currently in the Maldives to consider leaving as assistance would be challenging if they encounter distress.

The Maldives is known for its luxury resorts and idyllic beaches and it is a popular destination for tourists including Israelis.

In 2023, nearly 11,000 Israelis visited the Maldives, accounting for 0.6% of total tourist arrivals. However, the number of Israeli visitors dropped in 2024, with only 528 visiting in the first four months, an 88% decrease compared to the same period in the previous year.

The decision was influenced by pressure from opposition parties and government allies in the predominantly Muslim nation.

The Maldives has a history of fluctuating relations with Israel, having previously lifted a ban on Israeli tourists in the early 1990s and attempted to restore relations in 2010. These efforts were disrupted after the toppling of then-President Mohamed Nasheed in 2012.

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesperson Oren Marmorstein reiterated the recommendation for Israelis to avoid traveling to the Maldives.

President Muizzu announced a national fundraising campaign titled “Maldivians in Solidarity with Palestine” to support Palestinian needs.

A special envoy will be appointed to assess the requirements of Palestinians and oversee the fundraising campaign.

Turkey has imposed a ban on the import and export of goods to and from Israel, leading to shortages within Israel particularly of concrete and various household brands imported through Turkey.

The British coffee chain Pret a Manger canceled a franchise agreement to open branches in Israel. Israeli firms were barred from participating in the Eurosatory arms fair in Paris due to the military operations in Gaza.

The committee of Norway’s sovereign wealth fund is considering divesting from companies with interests in Israel.

Trinity College Dublin and other European universities have suspended cooperation agreements with Israeli institutions over activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

As of recent reports, at least 36,439 Palestinians have been killed and 82,627 have been wounded since the conflict escalated on October 7, 2023.

Israel’s military operations in Rafah have drawn international criticism due to the high civilian toll and destruction.

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The Maldives had a ban on Israeli tourists which was lifted in the early 1990s. Attempts to normalize relations were made in 2010.

Israeli passport holders face travel restrictions in several other countries including Algeria, Bangladesh, Brunei, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Yemen.

The primary reason for the Maldives’ decision is the war in Gaza, which has intensified public anger and political pressure within the country.

The Israeli military’s recent airstrikes including one that caused a fire killing 45 people in a tent camp in Rafah.

President Muizzu, following a recommendation from his Cabinet officially announced the ban on Israeli passport holders. A subcommittee has been established to oversee the implementation of this ban and to amend necessary laws.

On May 28, 2024, President Muizzu condemned the Israeli airstrike in Rafah on social media, calling for Israel to adhere to international law and the International Court of Justice’s rulings. He addressed the need for an immediate ceasefire and humanitarian access in Gaza.

President Muizzu has launched a national fundraising campaign titled “Maldivians in Solidarity with Palestine” and plans to organize a nationwide rally to support Palestinians.

The Israeli foreign ministry has advised its citizens including those with dual citizenship to avoid traveling to the Maldives.

The ministry has also recommended that Israeli nationals currently in the Maldives consider leaving.

The Maldives is not the only country to deny entry to Israeli passport holders. Other nations with similar policies include Algeria, Bangladesh, Brunei, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Yemen.

Israel has designated Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Iran as enemy nations, requiring special permits for its citizens to visit these countries.

The Israeli Embassy has taken to social media to promote Indian beach destinations as an alternative for Israeli tourists.

They highlighted the hospitality and beauty of beaches in Goa, Kerala, and Lakshadweep, encouraging Israelis to explore these locations instead.

The promotion included specific references to Lakshadweep, an archipelago in the Arabian Sea. This move follows previous tensions between Maldives and India, where Maldivian ministers made derogatory remarks about Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The promotion of Lakshadweep can be seen as a move to leverage these existing tensions.

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