Major to visit Jerusalem without Hogg

FROM PATRICK COCKBURN

in Jerusalem

The Foreign Office Minister Douglas Hogg will not accompany the Prime Minister, John Major, to Israel on Sunday, defusing a row with Israel over plans to visit Orient House, the PLO headquarters in Jerusalem. The Foreign Office said the change of plan was for other reasons, but the decision to keep Mr Hogg in London is bound to be seen by Palestinians as caving in to Israeli objections.

Earlier this week, Rami Tahboub, head of protocol at Orient House, said Mr Hogg's visit had been decided in talks with the British consulate in East Jerusalem. Yesterday he said that instead they were to receive a courtesy visit from an Assistant Under-Secretary, Andrew Green, who has responsibility for Middle East affairs.

The surprise announcement was made at a briefing by Yehuda Millo, deputy director-general at the Israeli Foreign Ministry, with responsibility for Western Europe. He said Israel's policy was that under the 1993 agreement with the PLO, the foreign affairs of the Palestinian Authority should be conducted from the autonomous areas of Jericho and Gaza.

The Foreign Office says the decision not to send Mr Hogg was taken before the dispute over his visit to Orient House was publicised.

Orient House , a pretty but largely empty building a hundred yards from the American Colony hotel in East Jerusalem, has become sensitive in Israeli politics. Right-wing members of the Knesset portray it as a centre of PLO activity and one group claimed that Islamic Jihad used the office fax machine.

Mr Major arrives in Jerusalem leading a team of top businessmen. He will be only the second head of state to see the PLO chairman, Yasser Arafat, in Gaza. Britain is Israel's third largest export market.

The Israeli ambassador to the UK, Moshe Raviv, said: "The big impetus, I would say, was in the last three years. This was a special growth after the Oslo agreement and the beginning of the peace process."

Few diplomatic results are expected from Mr Major's visit or from that of the US Secretary of State, Warren Christopher, who arrived in Israel from Cairo yesterday on the second leg of a Middle East tour. He met the Israeli Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin, but is said to lack new proposals to bridge the gap between Israel and Syria.

Earlier, the Israeli Foreign Minister, Shimon Peres, caused a stir at a meeting at the Erez crossing point between Israel and Gaza, when he called Mr Arafat "Ra'ees", Arabic for president. Israeli officials usually address the PLO leader as "Mr Chairman," emphasising there is no Palestinian state, so no Palestinian president.

"I want to thank Mr Peres. This is the first time he calls me President," Mr Arafat said in English with a broad smile.

Mr Peres said the number of Palestinians allowed to work in Israel will be increased from 15,000 to 22,000.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £45,000

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a solutions / s...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £45,000

£18000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive is required t...

Recruitment Genius: Test Development Engineer

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you inspired to bring new a...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Motor Engineer

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific