UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Israel has refused to allow the UN Security Council to visit the West Bank, territory that the Palestinians claim for a future independent state, UN diplomats said Wednesday. Israel later confirmed it had opposed what it called a Palestinian propaganda initiative.
Last week, the council authorized its current president, Equatorial Guinea’s UN Ambassador Anatolio Ndong Mba, to consult the Israeli and Palestinian ambassadors about a trip.
Palestinian Ambassador Riyad Mansour immediately responded, saying a council visit would be viewed “in the most positive way.”
But Kuwait’s UN Ambassador Mansour Al-Otaibi said Ndong Mba reported to a closed council meeting Wednesday that “Israel categorically refused the council visit,” though Ambassador Danny Danon said the government would welcome visits to Israel by individual ambassadors.
Danon said in a statement later Wednesday that the planned visit was a Palestinian propaganda initiative “aimed at presenting a false reality to the international community.” He noted that Israel had hosted dozens of UN ambassadors from around the world in recent years and shown them “the historical truths that the Palestinians refuse to accept and fight against with terror and incitement.”
A council visit requires support from all 15 council members and approval by the countries concerned.
Al-Otaibi, the Arab representative on the council, said he expressed regret that the visit won’t take place, noting there have been many requests for the UN’s most powerful body to visit the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, which the Palestinians want as their capital — all unsuccessful.
“We want to continue our consultation,” he said. “Hopefully we reach a consensus, because we said this issue has been on the council agenda for decades.”
“We want an official trip — this is what we asked for, not to go illegally or not to be invited as tourists,” Al-Otaibi said.
Equatorial Guinea’s deputy ambassador Job Obiang Esono Mbengono told reporters: “We’re still working on it.”
The Security Council asked the council president to meet the Israeli and Palestinian ambassadors to discuss a visit after the United States blocked an Arab-backed Security Council statement put forward by Indonesia and Kuwait expressing regret at Israel’s suspension of an international observer mission in the West Bank city of Hebron.
The Temporary International Presence in Hebron was established in 1994 following Israeli extremist Baruch Goldstein’s massacre of 29 worshipers at the Ibrahimi Mosque in the West Bank city, located at the site revered by Jews as the biblical Tomb of the Patriarchs.
Israel’s Danon accused the Hebron mission of acting as “a violent, biased” force, a charge its members have strongly denied.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this story.