Maldives to ban Israeli passport holders from entry in protest over Gaza war

Israel

The Maldives says it will ban Israelis from entering the country, known for its luxury resorts, with the office of the president making the announcement as public anger rises over the war in Gaza.

The Maldives president, Mohamed Muizzu, has “resolved to impose a ban on Israeli passports”, a spokesperson for his office said in a statement, without giving details of when the new law would take effect. The country is visited by thousands of Israelis every year.

In response, Israel’s foreign ministry recommended that its citizens not travel to the Maldives, including those with dual citizenship. “For Israeli citizens already in the country, it is recommended to consider leaving, because if they find themselves in distress for any reason, it will be difficult for us to assist,” it said.

The Maldives decision comes amid evidence of mounting international fallout for Israel in a number of spheres, including business and academia and now tourism, over the Gaza war, a long-term demand of the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement which launched in 2005.

A month ago, Turkey imposed a ban on the import and export of goods to and from Israel, which Israeli media said on Monday had resulted in significant shortages.

Israel, which imports 40% of its concrete from Turkey, has been forced to shop for more expensive concrete in Europe, while household brands such as Heinz, Gillette, Braun and Pampers – that had been imported from Turkey by Diplomat, a major Israeli company – have also been affected.

Over the weekend, the British coffee shop chain Pret a Manger cancelled a franchise agreement with Israeli partners to open its first branch of 40 cafes in the country due to the conflict.

That follows an announcement on Friday that Israeli firms would not be allowed to have a stand at the Eurosatory arms fair in Paris.

The French defence ministry said “the conditions are no longer right to host Israeli companies at the Paris show, given that the French president is calling for the cessation of IDF operation in Rafah”.

The ethics committee of Norway’s sovereign wealth fund – the world’s largest – has also been examining whether to divest from companies with interests in Israel because of the war, amid pressure to go further.

Last month, Trinity College Dublin announced it was divesting “from investments in Israeli companies that have activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and appear on the UN blacklist in this regard”.

Other European universities, including the University of Granada and the Free University in Brussels have said they would suspend cooperation agreements.

The Maldives decision came after pressure from opposition parties and government allies in the predominantly Muslim nation on the country’s president to ban Israelis.

The president’s office said on Sunday that the cabinet decided to change the laws to prevent Israeli passport holders from entering the country and to establish a subcommittee to oversee the process. Muizzu also announced a national fundraising campaign called “Maldivians in Solidarity with Palestine”.

The Maldives had lifted a previous ban on Israeli tourists in the early 1990s and moved to restore relations in 2010. However, normalisation attempts were scuttled after the toppling of then-president Mohamed Nasheed in February 2012.

The Maldives is a tiny Islamic republic of more than 1,000 strategically located coral islets, known for its secluded sandy white beaches and shallow turquoise lagoons.

Official data showed the number of Israelis visiting the Maldives dropped to 528 in the first four months of this year, down 88% compared with the same period last year.

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