‘Insult to sovereignty’: Israelis barred from joining Biden in eastern Jerusalem

It will be the first time an American president visits eastern Jerusalem unaccompanied by Israeli officials. 

By Debbie Reiss, World Israel News

The U.S. has turned down an Israeli request to allow its representatives to join President Joe Biden’s scheduled visit to a Palestinian hospital in eastern Jerusalem on Friday, four Israeli officials told the Axios news site.

Since former president Donald Trump’s formal recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Israeli government officials have joined U.S. officials on all visits to the eastern section of the capital, which Palestinians view as the future capital of a Palestinian state.

The Augusta Victoria Hospital, which is funded by the U.S., serves the local Arab population. While there, Biden will meet with civil society activists, the report said, citing Israeli officials.

Israel asked that Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz or a lower-ranking official from the Ministry of Health accompany Biden on the visit, but the request was rejected with the excuse that it was a “private visit,” not a political one, according to the unnamed Israeli officials. It will be the first time a U.S. president visits Palestinian Authority institutions in eastern Jerusalem without being accompanied by Israeli officials.

In an open letter published in The Jewish Press, former UN envoy Danny Danon said that the visit will be viewed “as an attempt to undermine Israel’s sovereignty over its own capital.”

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“It will symbolize support for the PA in their efforts to divide Jerusalem and their consistent claims that Israel has no historical or religious connection to the city,” Danon wrote, going so far as to claim that it would also “negate” the Trump administration’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

“[S]uch a visit will affirm false hopes and narratives of the possibility of removing Jews from their capital and homeland,” Danon wrote.

Arsen Ostrovsky, international human rights lawyer and CEO of the International Legal Forum, echoed Danon.

“This is yet another slap in the face by the Biden Administration against Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem, which will only give the Palestinians a false sense of hope about possibility of dividing the Jewish state’s capital, pushing the sides further away from peace,” Ostrovsky told World Israel News.

Matan Peleg, CEO of the activist group Im Tirtzu, called it an “insult” to Israel’s sovereignty and independence.

Peleg called on the Biden administration to rethink the decision, saying that the U.S. has few allies in the world and would do well to preserve the “true and loyal partnership” it shares with Israel.

During his visit to the hospital, Biden is also expected to announce doubling aid to the Palestinian Authority from $100 million to $200 million, Hebrew media reports said.

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The Biden administration has called on Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar to match U.S. aid earmarked for Palestinian hospitals.

The move comes four years after the Trump administration cut $25 million for hospitals in eastern Jerusalem.

Following his visit to Augusta Victoria, Biden will head to Bethlehem ,where he will meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.