Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 15 November 2019

US Embassy in Jerusalem cancels West Bank event over protests

Palestinians cut all ties with the US after it recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in 2017

White House Senior Adviser Ivanka Trump and US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin attend the dedication ceremony of the new US embassy in Jerusalem in May 14, 2018. Reuters
White House Senior Adviser Ivanka Trump and US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin attend the dedication ceremony of the new US embassy in Jerusalem in May 14, 2018. Reuters

The United States Embassy in Jerusalem on Monday was forced to postpone a conference it organised in the West Bank city of Ramallah after Palestinian officials and factions called for a boycott and threatened to organise protests.

Palestinians cut all ties with the US after it recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in 2017.

They view the Trump administration as unfairly biased following a series of actions seen as hostile to their aspirations for an independent state.

The embassy had organised a conference this week to bring together alumni of US educational and cultural programmes, including dozens of Palestinians from the Gaza Strip who received permission from Israel to attend. The territory has been under an Israeli-Egyptian blockade since the militant Islamist group Hamas seized power there in 2007.

But the Palestinian leadership viewed the conference as an attempt to circumvent its boycott of the US administration.

“We are aware of recent statements regarding a planned event for alumni of US educational and cultural programmes,” the US Embassy said. “In order to avoid the Palestinian participants being put in a difficult situation, we have decided to postpone the event for now.”

It said this and other events “are designed to create opportunities for exchange and dialogue between Americans and Palestinians at the grass roots level.”

“This event in particular is intended to give alumni of all ages and backgrounds from Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza an opportunity to network with each other and to engage in leadership and capacity-building activities,” it said.

Israel captured East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza in the 1967 Middle East war, territories the Palestinians want for their future state.

The Trump administration is at work on a long-awaited peace plan, but has not endorsed a two-state solution to the conflict. The Palestinians have already dismissed the plan, saying it is certain to be slanted towards Israel.

Representatives of several Palestinian factions held a press conference Monday at the hotel where the meeting was to have taken place.

Spokesman Isam Baker told The Associated Press that the Palestine Liberation Organisation, an umbrella group, had reached out to the hotel management and the invitees asking them to boycott the meeting.

“Most of the invitees and the hotel administration agreed with us that the invitation has political implications and it is not innocent,” he said.

“The US administration, which has cut off all aid to our people, shut down our office in Washington and placed huge pressure on our leadership to accept a pro-Israel political plan will not do any good for our people,” he said. “Therefore, we are boycotting any activities it organises.”

Washington removed more than $200 million in development aid to the Palestinians last year, cutting several long-running programmes.

A statement released Sunday by the “national and Islamic forces of the Ramallah governorate” said they were determined to thwart the conference, calling it an attempt to “break the will of the Palestinian people”.

It said they planned to organise a “mass popular event to prevent this activity by all available means,” calling for a sit-in and marches.

The youth wing of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party also called for a boycott. It vowed to “exercise all forms of legal and popular pressure to express rejection of this conference being held on occupied Palestinian land” and also called for an “apology” from the hotel.

Updated: August 20, 2019 11:53 AM

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