A meeting Thursday of the countries donating to the Palestinian Authority on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly yielded an embarrassing diplomatic incident in the form of a confrontation between Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely and the Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh.
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According to several sources present, the incident ensued after an address Hotovely gave. She opened her address with an explanation of the Sukkot holiday in which she noted that traditionally Jews who ascend to the Temple Mount on Sukkot are blessed.
Hotovely continued with criticism of the Palestinians, saying that while an Israeli child dreams of being an engineer so he can be part of the start-up nation, a Palestinian child dreams of being an engineer so he can prepare explosive devices and perpetrate terror attacks. Hotovely also criticized the address made by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, accusing him of incitement on the issue of the Temple Mount when he spoke of Israelis defiling the Aqsa Mosque with their boots. She also cited economic steps Israel has taken for the West Bank Palestinians’ benefit like the granting of work permits.
After Hotovely finished, it was Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh’s turn to speak. Judeh set aside the pages of his prepared speech and reportedly said, “I have a written address but I don’t plan to give it because I can’t not respond to what we’ve heard from the Israeli representative.” According to the sources, Judeh launched into a sarcastic monologue in which he said that Jordan couldn’t take Israel’s security interests more seriously than Israel itself. He said that when Israeli soldiers enter Al-Aqsa with boots it indeed offends the sensibilities of 1.5 billion Muslims all over the world and is liable to set off a religious war.
Judeh then said that from the address of the Israeli deputy foreign minister, one could think that the situation on the West Bank had never been better and that everything was just "hunky-dory." From Hotovely’s words, he added, it seems there is no need for negotiations or a two-state solution; Israel can just make a few economic gestures and all would be well.
The incident became particularly embarrassing when Hotovely interrupted Judeh several times to argue with him. This was contrary to protocol for the meeting, which was not an open discussion but a series of short speeches. One person in the room said that the meeting’s chairman, Norwegian Foreign Minister Borge Brende, had to call Hotovely to order twice.
Israeli and foreign diplomatic sources who were present said the exceptional confrontation created a very tense atmosphere at the meeting, whose aim was actually to present the positive steps Israel and the Palestinians had taken in recent months. The incident was the talk of those foreign ministers who attended for hours afterward, the sources said.