Last week, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas complained that he had been stripped of his VIP status and was instead given a two month travel permit.
According to PA officials, Abbas complained during a Fatah meeting held last week that his VIP travel visa had been changed to the one all Palestinians must use when entering Israel. He was also reported as claiming that the move was a punishment for the PA statehood application to the UN submitted last year as well as proof that Israel is an apartheid state.
The VIP visa in question allows Abbas to travel everywhere, whenever he pleases. The PA President, who is a frequent traveler, has been using that permit to travel to countries around the world in his efforts to garner enough support for UN Palestinian statehood bid as well as diplomatic pressure upon Israel to accede to all of his demands. However, Palestinian officials admitted that the permit hasn’t stopped Abbas from travelling in and out of the West Bank and that Abbas had flown to London on Sunday to meet with British officials.
Adnan Dmiri, spokesperson for PA security forces, claimed that the move was one that Israel was making in order “to pressure the Palestinian Authority to step away from its political path of resorting to the international community.” He also accused Israel of revoking the travel privileges of numerous PA officials, especially in the wake of the PA bid for statehood at the UN in September 2011. The Palestinian public reacted with sarcastic sympathy and mostly ridiculed Abbas, saying that the change showed his weakness in comparison to the Hamas terrorist group and that he would have to go through checkpoints like everyone else.
Israel responded to the allegations by saying that the travel policy for Palestinian officials was the same and that Abbas’ change in status was linked to a technical error that was would be corrected soon. According to Maj. Guy Inbar, the official overseeing travel status and permits, “There is no change in position or policy regarding the travel passes of Palestinian officials.”