Israel has stripped Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of VIP status and given him a watered-down travel permit that is valid for just two months, Palestinian officials charged Sunday.This photo is circulating on PalArab social media sites:
The officials said that Abbas complained about the permit at an internal meeting of his Fatah Party last week.
In a speech, Abbas said the new permit, similar to those required for Palestinian laborers entering Israel, was a reflection of Israel's continued control over the Palestinians, and suggested that Israel was trying to punish him for applying for Palestinian membership in the United Nations.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity Sunday because they were not allowed to brief reporters.
Maj. Guy Inbar, a spokesman for the Israeli agency that issues travel documents to Palestinians, said there has been no change in policy. He said the permit was the result of a technical glitch that should be resolved soon.
"Freedom of movement ... remains exactly the same as it was," Inbar said. "I deny all claims of changes in travel passes of Palestinian officials," he said. "There is no change in position or policy regarding the travel passes of Palestinian officials."
The VIP permit allowed Abbas to travel whenever and wherever he wanted. Palestinian officials acknowledged the new permit has not prevented Abbas, a frequent traveler to world capitals, from moving in and out of the West Bank. On Sunday, Abbas flew to London for talks with British leaders.
Dozens of local Facebook users spread what appeared to be a copy of Abbas' travel permit, in many cases with sarcastic comments about Abbas' weakness. "See you at the checkpoint," wrote one user, identified as Nidal Ahmed.
It supposedly shows Mahmoud Reda Abbas' temporary travel permit card. It says he can stay overnight in the West Bank and Gaza Strip only, and is allowed to enter Israel except for Eilat, and is not allowed to drive a car in Israel, and a handwritten note "valid despite security prevention."
It is valid for two months.