Israel bars Mahathir from Jerusalem

May 17 2005


RAMALLAH, May 16: Israel on Monday banned former Malaysian premier Mahathir Mohamad, whose comments have in the past infuriated Jews, from entering Jerusalem while visiting the West Bank. Mr Mahathir was delayed for an hour at the Allenby crossing from Jordan into the West Bank, where Israeli officials banned him from going to Jerusalem or the city of Jenin in the West Bank, Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qorei said.

“I want to say to the entire world that this is the political mind of the occupation,” Mr Qorei told a joint news conference with Mahathir in the West Bank city of Ramallah. “This is an important man, an international man and the Israelis prevent him from going to Jerusalem, they prevent him from going to Jenin,” he added, expressing his apologies.

The Israeli government, which continue to control the entrance into towns throughout most of the West Bank as well as controlling the border into Jordan, said it had received no advance warning of Mahathir’s arrival.

“We received no request to facilitate the visit. We weren’t aware he was coming, so we didn’t deal with it,” said a foreign ministry spokesman, pointing out that Israel has no diplomatic relations with Malaysia. The former prime minister had caused uproar in Israel just before his retirement in 2003 by saying that Jews rule the world by proxy, getting others to fight and die for them.

Mr Mahathir, who championed the Palestinian cause during his 22 years in power before retiring in October last year, said he was visiting the West Bank as a show of solidarity with the Palestinians.

“It was not easy to come here and I was delayed a lot. I can’t go to Jerusalem. I tried to go to Jenin, but I can’t,” he said. “I hope that my next visit will be to Jerusalem, the capital of the Palestinian state,” he added.

Sources in Mr Qorei’s office said the former Malaysian leader would instead go to Abu Dis in an effort to catch a glimpse of the golden dome of Jerusalem’s Al Aqsa mosque. Jenin city council said Mahathir had been invited to the northern West Bank city to tour the destruction caused during the last five years.—AFP