A meeting between Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki and the foreign ministers of twelve other countries which was scheduled for this past Sunday in Ramallah was cancelled when the Israeli military denied five envoys the right to enter the West Bank.The delegations from Indonesia, Malaysia, Cuba, Algeria and Bangladesh were denied entry into the West Bank at the border with Jordan by the Israeli military which controls all border crossings. Emissaries scheduled to attend the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Conference who were allowed in, including Egypt and Zimbabwe, then declined to attend in solidarity with their excluded colleagues.
A spokesman for the Israeli foreign ministry told Reuters that the reason for the denial of entry was the status of diplomatic relations with Israel. This is despite the fact that foreign dignitaries were not entering Israel nor conducting diplomatic talks with Israeli officials.
Hanan Ashrawi, executive committee member of the PLO stated that Israel’s “attempts to isolate the Palestinian people from the rest of the world further emphasize why we need to achieve state status at the United Nations as a step towards our exercise of self-determination and freedom.”
This action by Israel came only the day after the Palestinian Authority announced it would continue to push for statehood at the United Nations.
The Non-Aligned Movement was founded during the Cold War to advocate for causes in the developing world, and the PA had hoped to inform members of the situation in the Occupied PalestinianTerritories in advance of the annual meeting to be held at the end of the month in Iran.
Israel’s foreign ministry dismissed the importance of the NAM meetings based on the fact that the annual meeting this year will be held in Iran. The question then remains why the Israeli government would go to lengths to prohibit participants from attending a meeting it says is inconsequential. Ashrawi contends that the denial of entry was, “a blatant and crude exercise of power and a form of political siege.”
Robert Serry, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process said in a statement to Israeli daily Ha’aretz that, ‘[d]enying the Palestinian Authority the ability to engage with members of the international community in Area A is yet another step that contradicts the credibility of the Oslo arrangements which affirm the Palestinian right of self-government.’
Area A within the West Bank, is supposed to be under Palestinian control according to the Oslo agreements. This incident, along with the daily denials of entry and questioning that the Israeli military conducts at the Jordanian border belies this fiction.