By Elad Benari
Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) have reached a compromise in a dispute that saw medical patients from Gaza denied entry to Israel for treatment because their travel documents said “State of Palestine,” officials told AFP on Wednesday.
Earlier Wednesday, a senior PA official said the “Israelis have prevented 70 sick people who need to go to Israeli hospitals from crossing Erez because it said ‘State of Palestine’ on their transfer request”.
“It was only this week that they informed me personally that Israel refuses to deal with this document,” he told AFP.
“This is a political decision from the Israelis to exert pressure in the negotiations,” he charged, referring to peace talks between the sides.
The term “Palestinian Territories” has been used for years in documentation between Hamas-controlled Gaza and Israel, but Gaza sources claim the logo was changed after the UN accepted ‘Palestine’ as an observer state in 2012 – even though the recognition was granted to the Palestinian Authority (PA), which administers parts of Judea and Samaria, and not the Hamas administration which rules Gaza.
A spokesman for the Coordinator of Government Activity in the Territories (Judea, Samaria and Gaza), confirmed to AFP that the permits had been refused because they were submitted on stationery bearing the problematic logo.
Later Wednesday, a PA official said that, after a meeting, a deal had been reached under which patients carrying the new documents would be allowed in if the words “State of Palestine” were blurred.
“The Israeli authorities have assured us that the patients will be able to cross from tomorrow (Thursday),” the official told AFP.
Israel allows 40-70 medical patients per day to enter from Gaza and seek treatment in Israel. This is done despite the fact that Gaza’s Hamas leadership has threatened Israel with genocide.
The PA’s move to be admitted to the UN as a non-member observer state was done unilaterally and in direct violation of the Oslo Accords.
In the months that have passed since the UN vote, PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has taken several steps to officially name the areas he controls “the State of Palestine”, including ordering all of the PA’s institutions to stop using the term “Palestinian National Authority” and start using the name “Palestine” and issuing “Palestine” passports.
Hamas, which now proudly uses the “State of Palestine” logo, was at first opposed to the bid for upgraded status led by Abbas, who heads the rival Palestinian faction Fatah.
But after Hamas politburo chief Khaled Mashaal expressed public support for the bid, along with other members of the leadership-in-exile, the Gaza government offered its own tepid backing