Israel has blocked the United Nations Security Council from paying a visit to the occupied West Bank, the territory that the Palestinians seek as part of a future sovereign state.
The council last week approved its president to consult with both Israeli and Palestinian ambassadors about a potential visit to the territory that Israel’s military has occupied since the 1967 Arab-Israeli War. Equatorial Guinea’s UN ambassador Anatolio Ndong Mba currently heads the council.
Palestinian ambassador Riyad Mansour said that a council visit to the occupied territory would be received “in the most positive way”. Israel, though, has been less accepting and made moves to block the proposed trip.
Kuwaiti Ambassador Mansour Al-Otaibi said Ndong Mba reported to a closed council meeting Wednesday that "Israel categorically refused the council visit," though Israeli Ambassador Danny Danon said the government would welcome visits to Israel by individual ambassadors.
Israel has built a network of illegal settlements across the West Bank that the Palestinians say is aimed at preventing the continuity of a sovereign and independent state of their own. Around 600,000 Jewish settlers live in the territory and occupied East Jerusalem, which the Palestinians want as their capital.
A council visit requires support from all 15 council members and approval by the countries concerned. Several other members confirmed Mr Danon's rejection.
Mr Al-Otaibi, the Arab representative on the council, said he expressed regret that the visit won't take place, noting there have been many requests for the UN's most powerful body to visit the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, which the Palestinians want as their capital – all unsuccessful.
UN deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said there is no record of the Security Council ever visiting Palestinian areas.
"We want to continue our consultation," Mr Al-Otaibi said. "Hopefully we reach a consensus, because we said this issue has been on the council agenda for decades."
"We want an official trip — this is what we asked for, not to go illegally or not to be invited as tourists," Al-Otaibi said.
Equatorial Guinea's deputy ambassador, Job Obiang Esono Mbengono, told reporters: "We're still working on it."
The Security Council asked the council president to meet the Israeli and Palestinian ambassadors to discuss a visit after the United States blocked an Arab-backed Security Council statement put forward by Indonesia and Kuwait expressing regret at Israel's suspension of an international observer mission in the West Bank city of Hebron.
The Temporary International Presence in Hebron was established in 1994 following Israeli settler Baruch Goldstein's massacre of 29 worshippers at the Ibrahimi Mosque in the West Bank city, which triggered riots across Palestinian areas. The mosque is located at the site that is also revered by Jews as the Tomb of the Patriarchs.
Israel's Danon accused the Hebron mission of acting as "a violent, biased" force, which its members strongly denied.