‘We’ve been downgraded,’ Palestinian envoy claims
THERESA MAY’S government has effectively “downgraded” the diplomatic status of Palestinian representatives in Britain, the PLO’s most senior figure in this country has claimed.
Manuel Hassassian, head of the Palestinian Mission in the UK, made the claim as he prepared to leave the role after 12 years.
His expected successor, Maen Areikat, has yet to be granted a diplomatic visa to come and work in Britain, meaning he is unlikely to have the same official status as Mr Hassassian.
The outgoing representative of the Palestinian Authority said the Conservative government had ensured there was currently “no red carpet in dealing with the Palestinians”.
“In 2011 Britain upgraded the status of the Palestinian representative office from a delegation to a mission. In effect, the upgrade was only symbolic, because it did not entail any diplomatic privileges. Yet since then we have witnessed nothing but a downgrade in our status.
“Embassy staff no longer have the same entitlements as other diplomats. We are told that this is because of Britain’s non-recognition of Palestine,” Mr Hassassian wrote in a valedictory piece in the Guardian last week.
He claimed the British approach was representative of a “wider institutional context” of “hostility towards those who criticise Israeli occupation”, and cited examples including the shutting down of campus events organised by antiIsrael groups.
Mr Hassassian claimed Mrs May’s promise to “proudly” mark the centenary of the Balfour Declaration this year “rubs salt in the wound for every Palestinian”.
Earlier this month, Mahmoud Abbas, PA president, told an Arab newspaper that the difficulties being experienced by Mr Areikat, the former Palestinian representative to the United States, were indicative of a new approach by Britain.
He said: “The British are trying to scale back and are trying to put restrictions and obstacles. But we told them that we want to be treated like before, to deal with the new ambassador just like the former ambassador.”
In 2011 Mr Areikat suggested Jews would not be allowed to live in a future Palestinian state.