|Visit of Jordanian Parliamentary Delegation to the Territories|
(Communicated by Foreign Ministry Spokesman)
Following reports appearing in Israel and abroad, the Foreign Ministry spokesman wishes to clarify a number of points:
The Palestinian Authority hosted a Jordanian parliamentary delegation headed by Parliamentary Chairman Abdel Hadi Al-Majali between October 6 and 9, 1999.
Both the Palestinian Authority and the delegation chose not to coordinate the visit with the Government of Israel, deviating from accepted practice, in spite of the fact that their schedule included visits to Israel and the territories. Prior to their arrival, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs transmitted messages to the Jordanian delegation via the Jordanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs regarding our wish to ensure that the visit run smoothly and successfully. The delegation chose to ignore these messages, and its visit to eastern Jerusalem and the Orient House accompanied by officials of the Palestinian Authority took place in violation of the agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and contrary to the spirit of relations between Israel and Jordan.
At no stage did Israel have any intention of preventing the delegation from visiting Hebron and, indeed, when it reached the town the security forces permitted the Jordanian vehicles to enter the area of the Tomb of the Patriarchs. During the visit of the delegation to the Tomb of the Patriarchs, its members were not required to undergo a security check with the exception of passing through a magnetic gate. The security forces also exempted the Parliamentary Chairman from this procedure in light of his status. In spite of the fact that the visit was not coordinated in advance, the security forces did their utmost to comply with the wishes of the Jordanian legislators. Following an investigation carried out by the security forces, it emerged that in the course of the confrontation between settlers and local residents the IDF acted to protect the Jordanian legislators. Following the dispersal of the crowd, the security forces enabled the Parliamentary Chairman to enter the site accompanied by three Palestinians in order to pray. The delegation then traveled to Ramallah and returned from there to Jordan.
We regret that the Palestinian Authority and the delegation did not coordinate the visit and the trip to Hebron with us in advance, resulting in an unnecessary incident. We wish to emphasize that prior coordination, as exemplified by the successful arrangement for the passage to Gaza at the Erez checkpoint, would have ensured that the visit to Hebron was satisfactory. Nevertheless, the security forces are investigating the incident with an emphasis on the conduct of the Palestinians and the settlers involved, and they will take the necessary steps in accordance with the findings of the investigation.
During the last weekend, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs instructed the ambassador in Amman, Mr. Oded Eran, to meet with the relevant authorities in the Jordanian Government, in order to ascertain the reason for the lack of coordination prior to the delegation’s visit.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed its hope that the Jordanian Parliament will hold an open and substantive dialogue with the Knesset and the Israeli Government for the purpose of advancing the peace process. We will be happy to assist in the future, through our Embassy in Amman, in order to coordinate visits of this kind to Israel.