‘We’ve been down­graded,’ Pales­tinian en­voy claims

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY MAR­CUS DYSCH PO­LIT­I­CAL EDITOR

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.

Manuel Has­sas­sian

PHOTO: GETTY IM­AGES

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