November 3, 2010 - 12:00am

The Israeli Tourism Ministry is touting a recent decision to allow 50 Israeli tour guides and drivers to work in Bethlehem and Jericho, after a decade-long absence.

Officials deemed the move, which was jointly taken with the Civil Authority coordinating civilian affairs between Israel and the Palestinian National Authority (PNA), a success and plan to increase the numbers of permits.

"I see great importance in the tour guiding in Bethlehem which will facilitate an increase in the scope of the tour guides' work, " Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov was quoted as saying in a statement obtained by Xinhua on Tuesday.

The step, in his words, would allow for an increase in cooperation with the PNA.

Civil Administration Head Brigadier-General Yoav Mordechai on Tuesday agreed to a ministry request to expand the pilot project to 100 tour guides and 100 drivers, after a "successful" summer- long test run since June, according to a ministry statement released Tuesday.

The Tourism Ministry and counterparts in the PNA have generated more than a million tourists to Bethlehem in 2008 and more than 1. 3 million in 2009, according to the release.


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