The Fatah faction led by Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas is pushing a boycott of an event to be held in western Jerusalem, in a part of the capital that has been in Israeli hands since the creation of the state. Turkey may join in.
The event in question is the OECD's biannual tourism conference, scheduled for October 20-22. The conference will be the first OECD event held in Israel since the Jewish State joined the organization.
Abbas' Fatah released a statement accusing Israel of blocking tourism to PA-controlled areas. The statement claimed that Minister of Tourism Stas Misezhnikov's party, Yisrael Beiteinu (Israel Our Home) is a "racist party" that "calls for a mass expulsion of Palestinians." Yisrael Beiteinu head Avigdor Lieberman has stated that Israel should strip citizenship from those who are not loyal to the state, regardless of their ethnic or religious background.
Misezhnikov "said that the participation in the Summit 'ratifies' that Jerusalem is the recognized capital of Israel. Are the rest of the OECD countries going to legitimize that?" Fatah asked.
Britain and Spain do not plan to attend the conference, in what was originally thought to be a protest of the decision to hold the event in Jerusalem. Misezhnikov indicated that Britain would not attend due to PA pressure.
However, British officials later clarified that their country's absence was not due to a boycott, but rather, due to the fact that the relevant officials were busy. Foreign Office spokespersons said British representatives plan to attend future Jerusalem events.
Misezhnikov also said that OECD officials asked that delegates at the conference not travel to parts of Jerusalem that were under Jordanian control between 1948 and 1967.
The PA claims those parts of the city, including many neighborhoods that are historically Jewish, as the capital of its hoped-for future Arab country.
The OECD even suggested that the conference be moved to Tel Aviv, Misezhnikov said. Many countries maintain their embassies in the coastal city, despite the fact that Jerusalem is the nation's capital and is the location of most Israeli government offices.
More than 14 countries have said they plan to send representatives to the conference, among them France, Germany, South Africa, Switzerland, Austria and Denmark.
Turkish officials originally said they planned to attend the conference, but backtracked one day later, saying they planned to "evaluate our options" before making a final decision.