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JERUSALEM – In a conversation with the Palestinian Authority, a White House official apparently compared Israel’s Knesset, or parliament, to the gravesite of late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, according to a PA official speaking to WND.
The Palestinian official, who asked that his name be withheld, said he was in contact with members of the Obama administration regarding Obama’s slated visit to the West Bank city of Ramallah, where the U.S. president will meet PA President Mahmoud Abbas.
The official said the White House turned down a request for Obama to pay homage to Arafat at the deceased leader’s grave, which is located just outside Abbas’s offices.
When asked to explain why Obama would not visit Arafat’s resting place, the PA official claimed that a White House official made the comparison between the gravesite and Israel’s Knesset.
“The official explained to me that just as Obama won’t address the Knesset, which is a symbol of Israeli nationalism, so too he won’t visit the grave, a symbol of Palestinian nationalism,” the PA official said.
Arafat developed a terrorist apparatus responsible for deadly attacks against scores of Israelis. He presided over the so-called second intifada, or terrorist war against Israel.
In his role as the leader of Black September, Arafat was accused of directing attacks against the West. There is evidence he personally called for the murder of two U.S. diplomats when his Black September group laid siege to the Saudi embassy in Khartoum in 1973.
Obama, meanwhile, is taking some criticism here for his decision not to address the parliament, a custom for visiting U.S. presidents.
Former Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin told Israel National News that “when President Obama avoids the Knesset in Jerusalem, that’s a worrying sign, it’s a statement of lack of faith in the representatives of the nation he’s addressing.”
Yaakov Ahimeir, a columnist for Israel Today, the country’s second largest newspaper, wrote that the Knesset is “preparing itself to digest Obama’s insulting refusal to deliver his keynote address at the head of the plenum, thereby failing to acknowledge the Knesset as a symbol of Israeli sovereignty.”
Instead of addressing the Knesset, Obama will deliver his keynote address at the International Convention Center in Jerusalem to a forum of Israeli students and other civilians. The White House came under fire here for inviting students from major universities with the exception of Ariel University in the West Bank, territory the Palestinians claim as a state.
Fending off criticism over the alleged Knesset snub, White House spokesman Jay Carney insisted “the notion that Israel’s security is of concern only to members of the Knesset I think would be challenged by pretty much every Israeli over the age of 5 or 6.”