Israel bars delegates to West Bank

Summit meant to draft UN plan

JERUSALEM — Israel barred the delegations of five countries on Sunday from attending a diplomatic conference in Ramallah in the West Bank, upending plans by the Palestinian president to announce plans to renew the Palestinians’ bid next month for enhanced status in the United Nations.

A senior Israeli official said the delegations — from Algeria, Bangladesh, Cuba, Indonesia, and Malaysia — were denied permission to use Israeli border crossings because their governments do not recognize the state of Israel.

Palestinian officials said the delegations had planned to enter on a helicopter from Jordan and called the decision childish, crude, irresponsible, and blackmail, saying it symbolized the larger problem with Israel’s occupation of the West Bank territories it seized in 1967.


‘‘Israel is really trying to not just lay a physical siege but also a political siege,’’ said Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization. ‘‘We need to be able to move, to breathe, to act as a member of the community of nations. We cannot constantly be under the boot.’’

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The five nations were among 12 so-called nonaligned nations sending delegations to Ramallah for an emergency conference on Palestine. The other seven — Colombia, Egypt, India, Senegal, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe — declined to attend without the other nations. The 12 countries were expected to approve a ‘‘Ramallah Declaration,’’ which condemns Jewish settlement in the West Bank and supports the Palestinians’ bid to raise their status at the United Nations.

Those nations are among more than 100 that are not aligned with a particular power bloc. The meeting would have been the first of its kind in the West Bank since establishment of the Palestinian Authority.

Rian al-Malki, the Palestinian foreign minister, said Saturday that President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority would use his Sept. 27 speech at the United Nations to make his case for observer-state status but would not ask the General Assembly to vote on the matter until late November.

Last year, the United States vowed to veto Abbas’ statehood attempt in the UN Security Council, and it has pressured Palestinian officials not to force the issue again before the US presidential election.


Unlike the Security Council, where the issue died in a deadlocked committee vote last year, the General Assembly is virtually guaranteed to support the Palestinians’ request, with perhaps 130 of its 193 members voting in favor of it.

Observer-state status, akin to Vatican’s status, is less than what the Palestinians requested from the Security Council but would allow them access to institutions such as the International Criminal Court, where they could, for example, pursue legal cases against Israeli settlers and officials for actions in the West Bank.

A senior Palestinian official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter, said that the timing of the request would not be decided until after a Sept. 5 meeting of Arab nations but that one possibility was to ask for a vote Nov. 29 — the 65th anniversary of the UN vote to partition the territory of Palestine into Jewish and Arab states.

“Many diplomats have said it would be very difficult for their country on the 29th of November not to vote in favor,’’ the official said.

But Israel and the United States have both denounced the Palestinians’ decision to choose a UN path, saying that only direct negotiations can resolve the long-running conflict.