Israel Delays Entry of Foreign Dignitaries to West Bank, Puts PA Meeting in Peril

Palestinian leaders due to meet ministers representing states of the Non-Aligned Movement, discuss renewed attempts to gain Palestinian statehood.

A meeting in Ramallah between Palestinian leaders and ministers representing states of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) that was scheduled for Sunday evening may not take place since Israel has yet authorized the foreign delegates' entry into the West Bank.

The meeting was announced on Saturday by Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki, who said that the purpose of the session was to introduce NAM members to the Palestinian situation and to ask for their support, should they ask to become a non-member state in the United Nations General Assembly.

"The meeting aims to stress the right of our people and leadership to hold conferences on our land and to support our struggle to end the occupation and settlements and establish our independent state with East Jerusalem as its capital," said al-Malki.

However, Haaretz has learned that preparations for the meeting have been halted, and that the session could ultimately be cancelled since Israel is delaying the required transit passes into the West Bank.

The meeting in Ramallah was meant to be participated by the foreign ministers of 12 NAM members, including Egyptian Foreign Minister Kamel Amr, South African Labor Minister Mildred Oliphant, as well as ministers from states with which Israel does not have diplomatic relations, such as Indonesia, Malaysia and Cuba.

Other countries due to sent envoys were Algeria, Senegal, Zimbabwe, Zambia, India, Bangladesh, and Colombia.

Some of the ministers were supposed to enter the West Bank through the Allenby Bridge in the Jordan Valley, while others were due to be carried into the territory using helicopters.

In a statement released in response to the Israeli measure, PA official Hanan Ashrawi criticized Israel for preventing the delegates from entering the West Bank, saying that "Israel’s denial of entry to the foreign ministers who were coming to participate in the Non-Aligned Movement meeting in Ramallah is a blatant and crude exercise of power and a form of political siege."

"Israel’s treatment of Palestine as an internal issue and its 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,” Ashrawi added.