This story has been getting lots of play over the past couple of hours:
Israel has denied entry permits to some 50 Palestinian medical patients from the Gaza Strip because the words "State of Palestine" appears on the letterhead of their application, officials said on Wednesday.Gulf News adds:
Israel does not recognize a Palestinian state, whose creation it says should stem from peace negotiations. It voted against a U.N. General Assembly resolution in 2012 that gave de facto recognition to a sovereign Palestinian state.
"On Sunday (the Palestinians) filed a range of requests ... on a document that said 'State of Palestine'. On the spot, we returned it to them, saying they should refile the request on appropriate paperwork," said Major Guy Inbar, a spokesman for COGAT, the military-run authority that handles entry permits.
He said 10 Palestinians whose cases were urgent were allowed to enter Israel while about 50 others were not.
Israeli treatment for patients from the Gaza Strip - an enclave run by Hamas Islamists hostile to Israel - is arranged by the Western-backed Palestinian Authority, which exercises limited self-rule in the occupied West Bank.
Omar al-Naser of the Palestinian Health Ministry in the West Bank city of Ramallah said the ministry had been using the "State of Palestine" letterhead for a year without any move by Israel to deny patients entry.
The ban affects ill people using the Erez Crossing and has been labelled by Palestinians as “rude, barbaric, illegal” and “aimed at killing patients” for whom treatment, as the Israelis know, is not available in Gaza.
I spoke to the COGAT spokesperson for Gaza, and found out the real story.
For several months, the Palestnian Authority has been sending requests on the new letterhead. Every single time, COGAT rejected it, and each time they were resubmitted with the Palestinian Authority letterhead - and approved. This was not new, and the PA knows very well that this was the case.
As recently as Sunday, several patients whose requests were on the new stationery were rejected, and then the PA re-faxed the request the old way and they were approved.
Today's story is a propaganda ambush. Some 50-70 patients (apparently non-life threatening) were submitted on the new stationery at once, an unusually high number. As has been the case for months, they were rejected. But this time the story was leaked to the media. (There was a Haaretz story about this in January with only one patient, but it didn't get much coverage. Much better to use 50 or 70 if you want Reuters and AFP to take notice.)
Existing agreements are between Israel and the PA, not the fictitious "State of Palestine." It is obvious that the PA is trying to embarrass Israel and will happily use Gaza patients as a means to do so. It is equally obvious that the "State of Palestine" is a final status issue, and that Israel cannot act otherwise without jeopardizing its negotiating position.
As usual, instead of dealing with Israel directly, the PLO is passive aggressively using the media to demonize (and weaken) Israel on its behalf. And, as usual, the media is happy to play its part in this charade.