Israel Feels Snubbed by U.S. Ambassador’s No-Show
JERUSALEM (AP) _ Israel’s government was in a huff today over the diplomatic boycott of Jerusalem’s 3,000th birthday bash, especially the no-show of the U.S. ambassador.
Ambassadors from 70 nations were invited to Monday night’s ceremony, but the Foreign Ministry said only 17 ambassadors showed up _ mostly from small countries.
U.S. Ambassador Martin Indyk was among those who stayed away from the opening of Jerusalem 3000, a 17-month celebration marking the 3,000th anniversary of King David’s conquest of Jerusalem.
But he denied his absence was part of a boycott, saying he had other commitments and there would be ``ample opportunities″ for the United States to participate in festivities in the coming months.
The festival puts the United States and other nations in an awkward position because it showcases Jerusalem as Israel’s capital while the city’s international status is still in limbo.
Palestinians say the celebrations are a heavy-handed attempt to deny their claims to east Jerusalem, which Israel captured in 1967. Negotiations on the final status of the city, home to 405,000 Jews and 155,000 Arabs, are supposed to start by next year.
Although Israel claims all of Jerusalem as its undivided capital, only Costa Rica and El Salvador recognize it as such and have their embassies here. The United States and other countries keep their embassies in Tel Aviv.
Spokeswoman Aliza Goren said Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was unhappy that the ceremony had been ``abandoned″ by diplomats, including Indyk. Israeli newspapers described Rabin as angry over the snub.
``It’s not new,″ Goren said. ``We know the policy of most countries toward Jerusalem. Of course our aim is to change it.″
The United States gives Israel $3 billion a year in economic and military aid.
But Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert said the U.S. decision to stay away from the opening ceremony showed that ``Jerusalem is like an open wound in the relations between us and the United States.″
Economics Minister Yossi Beilin said the American absence was regrettable, but added that it was a ``moment of truth″ for Israel that underlined that the status quo was unacceptable.
``What happened was a shocking truth for many people who think that what we need to do ... is to leave the situation in Jerusalem as it is,″ he said. ``We need to come to a situation where in the final arrangement the world will recognize Jerusalem as our capital.″
The European Union is boycotting the event, but the American ambassador said he did not show up because he was busy with a Labor Day barbecue and a benefit for an Israeli women’s shelter.
``The United States government did not boycott the Jerusalem 3000 festival and is not boycotting the Jerusalem 3000 festival,″ he said, adding that the embassy sent a senior cultural affairs official to the ceremony.
The Palestinians want to establish a future capital in east Jerusalem, which Israel captured from Jordan in the 1967 Mideast war and later annexed. Israel has said it will never give up sovereignty over all of the city.