A MEETING of envoys from the Non-Aligned Movement due to convene in the Israeli-occupied West Bank was yesterday scrapped after Israel refused to admit four attendees from states with which it has no diplomatic relations, Palestinian officials said.
They said other guests, including the foreign ministers of Egypt and Zimbabwe, declined to attend in solidarity with those prevented from taking part.
The Non-Aligned Movement, founded during the Cold War to advocate the causes of the developing world, was to convene an unprecedented, high-level meeting in the West Bank in solidarity with the Palestinian leadership, in advance of an annual meeting in Iran at the end of the month.
The development came as Israel’s United Nations (UN) Ambassador Ron Prosor, yesterday said the Palestinians’ bid to upgrade their status at the UN would find majority support there but would not bring them closer to statehood and peace with Israel.
Citing stalled peacemaking and Israeli settlement-building on occupied West Bank land where they seek sovereign independence, the Palestinians said over the weekend that they would renew a bid to win UN recognition as a state.
Prosor accused the Palestinians of trying to recapture international attention that has shifted to crises in Iran, Egypt and Syria.
Meanwhile, Israel is upgrading its Arrow II ballistic missile shield in a U.S.-backed “race” against Iran, Syria and other regional enemies.
The new “Block 4” generation of guided interceptor rockets, radars and technologies for synchronizing Arrow with U.S. systems was being installed in deployed Israeli batteries, a process that would take several weeks, a top Defence official said.
“The accuracy and the reach will be greater,” the official said of Arrow, which has been operational since 2000 and is designed to blow up incoming missiles at altitudes high enough for non-conventional warheads to disintegrate safely.
“It is part of the technological race in the region,” the official, who declined to be named, told Reuters.
Long jittery about Iran’s disputed nuclear programme, the Israelis have more recently worried the Syrian insurgency could loosen Damascus’s hold on its chemical weapons and missiles.
Israel has threatened to attack preemptively in both countries, a prospect that could trigger wider war and clash with Washington’s efforts to resolve the crises diplomatically.
Iran, which denies seeking nuclear weapons, has repeatedly vowed to retaliate against any attack. “(Israel) knows that attacking Iran is an unattainable wish, unless the regime seeks to commit suicide,” Iranian Defence Minister Ahmad Vahidi was quoted as saying by the state news agency IRNA yesterday. The Pentagon and U.S. firm Boeing Co are partners in Arrow, an investment that the Obama administration hopes will help stay Israel’s hand.
Israel, which controls access to the West Bank, barred the foreign ministers of Malaysia and Indonesia along with ambassadors from Cuba and Bangladesh on the grounds that the four countries do not recognize the Jewish state.
“We have cleared entry for representatives of countries which have diplomatic relations with Israel and we have not cleared those which do not,” Yigal Palmor, an Israeli foreign ministry spokesman, said.
“Nothing constructive, to say the very least, has ever come out of this committee in the past, and now that it is going to meet in Iran under the chairmanship of Tehran, expectations could not be lower,” Palmor said.
A day after announcing that it would restart its bid for statehood recognition at the United Nations, a campaign strongly opposed by the United States and Israel, the Palestinian Authority bristled at the Israeli move.
“(Israel) exploits its position as an occupying power to prevent Palestine from communication with the countries of the world and to isolate the Palestinian people and its institutions,” said Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation’s executive committee.
Palestinian officials had hoped entrance into U.N. agencies and attendance of international gatherings in the capacity of a state would improve their standing internationally and undermine Israel’s 45-year occupation of the West Bank.