The Palestinian Authority decided on Sunday to cancel a meeting in Ramallah of
members of the Non-Aligned Movement after Israel denied entry to five foreign
cabinet ministers who were supposed to attend the parley.
ministers were scheduled to participate in the two-day conference, which was
being held to support PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s renewed effort to
unilaterally seek UN recognition of a Palestinian state next month.
ministers’ countries are members of the “Palestine Committee” belonging to the
The foreign dignitaries were scheduled to arrive in
Ramallah from Jordan through the Allenby Bridge and by helicopter.
PA’s decision to cancel the conference came after Israel made clear on Sunday
morning that it would not allow transit to Ramallah of the foreign ministers of
countries with which it does not have diplomatic ties: Bangladesh, Cuba,
Indonesia, Malaysia and Algeria.
Israel said, however, that it would
enable transit of the foreign ministers of seven countries who do have ties with
Israel: Egypt, India, Colombia, South Africa, Senegal, Zambia and
This was to be the first gathering of its kind in the West Bank
since the establishment of the PA in 1994. Diplomatic officials in Jerusalem
said it was yet another attempt by the PA to embarrass Israel and to complicate
its relations with other countries.
“We were notified by the Israeli
authorities of the decision only a few hours before the conference was scheduled
to open,” a senior PA official told The Jerusalem Post.
He claimed that
the Israeli authorities had been aware for some time of the intention to hold
the conference in Ramallah.
“We have no explanation as to why we were
notified at the last minute,” the official said, expressing deep disappointment
over the ban.
PA officials strongly condemned Israel for refusing to allow the five foreign
ministers to travel to Ramallah.
PA Foreign Minister Riad Malki, who
played a major role in organizing the conference, denounced the Israeli ban as a
“Denying the facts does not mean that they do not exist,” he
told reporters as he officially announced the cancellation of the conference.
“Occupation and settlements are illegitimate and the crimes that are being
perpetrated against our people cannot be concealed by the Israeli government’s
decision to ban visits by foreign delegations.”
Malki thanked the
ministers for agreeing to hold their meeting “on the lands of the occupied state
He heaped praise on the ministers for insisting on holding
the conference only in Ramallah and said the PA would consult with the members
of the “Palestine Committee” as to how they should respond to the Israeli
PLO Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi accused the government
of practicing “blackmail and political siege to prevent Palestine from
connecting with other countries.”
Israel, she charged, was continuing to
“challenge the whole world and humiliate representatives of various countries.
Israel has now humiliated the entire Non-Aligned Movement
Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor downplayed any
possible diplomatic ripple effect from this decision.
“What, Cuba won’t
like us,” he said. “Malaysia will vote against us in international
Israel, he said, did not owe anything to “countries like
Cuba and Bangladesh.”
“If you do not even bother to have relations with
Israel, you cannot be a player here,” Palmor said, explaining Israel’s decision
to bar entrance to the five foreign ministers. “You can’t pretend to be a player
if you systematically turn your back on Israel and pretend it does not
Palmor said that Israel acted fully within its legal rights in
barring entrance to the foreign ministers, since “under international agreements
we have the authority and duty to clear entry via Jordan, whether entrance is by
land or air.”
The Non-Aligned Movement, which has about 120 members, is a
group of countries that consider themselves not aligned formally with or against
any major power bloc.
Abbas is expected to attend a meeting of the
Non-Aligned Movement in Tehran later this month.