Mahathir was delayed for an hour on Monday at the Allenby crossing from Jordan into the West Bank where Israeli officials barred him from going to Jerusalem or the city of Jenin in the West Bank, Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmad Qurei said.

 

Palestinian Foreign Ministry official Abdullah Abdullah told Aljazeera.net that Mahathir was denied entry into Jerusalem because of his pro-Palestinian stand and outspoken criticism of the Israeli occupation.
 
"You know the Israeli behaviour. They think they have the right to deny anyone entry to the holy city," Abdullah told Aljazeera.net.

 

He quoted Mahathir as saying: "What I have seen vindicates all my views and thoughts about this racist regime."

 

No respect

 

The highest-ranking Muslim official in Jerusalem, Sheikh Muhammed Hussein, condemned the "unjustified behaviour", saying Israel was a state that showed no respect for non-Jews' freedom of religion.

 

"This shows that Israel can't be trusted to run or control non-Jewish holy places," he said.

 

Ahmad Qurei criticised Israel
for its treatment of Mahathir

"Here is a man who came from a distant country in order  to pray at the mosque, and look how they are treating him."
 
In the West Bank city of Ramallah, the Malaysian elder statesman met Palestinian officials, including Qurei, who explained to him the overall situation.

 

Mahathir laid laid a wreath at Yasser Arafat's tomb in Ramallah.

 

Qurei told a joint news conference with Mahathir: "I want to say to the entire world that this is the political mind of the occupation."

 

"This is an important man, an international man and the Israelis prevent him from going to Jerusalem, they prevent him from going to Jenin," the Palestinian premier added, expressing his apologies.

 

Israeli explanation

 

An Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman, pointing out that Israel has no diplomatic relations with Malaysia, later said: "We received no request to facilitate the visit. We weren't aware he was coming, so we didn't deal with it."

 

The former prime minister had caused an uproar in Israel just before his retirement in 2003 by saying that Jews rule the world by proxy, getting others to fight and die for them.

 

"I hope that my next visit will be to Jerusalem, the capital of the Palestinian state"

Mahathir Mohamad,
former Malaysian Prime Minister

Mahathir, who championed the Palestinian cause during his 22 years in power before retiring in October last year, said he was visiting the West Bank as a show of solidarity with the Palestinians.

 

"It was not easy to come here and I was delayed a lot. I can't go to Jerusalem. I tried to go to Jenin, but I can't," he said.

 

"I hope that my next visit will be to Jerusalem, the capital of the Palestinian state," he added.


Sources in Qurei's office said the former Malaysian leader would instead go to Abu Dis in an effort to catch a glimpse of the Dome of the Rock, part of al-Aqsa Mosque compound, the third holiest site in Islam.

 

Jenin's request

 

Jenin city council said Mahathir had been invited to the northern West Bank city to tour the destruction caused by Israel during the last five years.

 

It said it had asked Mahathir to head an international campaign to rebuild the city.

 

In 2003, Mahathir told the Organisation of the Islamic Conference: "The Europeans killed six million Jews out of 12 million. But today the Jews rule this world by proxy. They get others to fight and die for them, 1.3 billion Muslims cannot be defeated by a few million Jews."

"Of late because of their power and their apparent success they have become arrogant," he said at the time. "And arrogant people like angry people will make mistakes, will forget to think."

Aljazeera.net's Khalid Amayreh in the West Bank contributed to this report