Palestinians leaving Gaza through Erez crossing
Photo: AFP

US says it erred in case of Gaza Strip students

Following New York Times article on plight of seven Palestinians awarded Fulbright fellowships but who could not leave Gaza, State Department says it was wrong not to have asked Israeli government for help

The United States said on Monday it had erred by not approaching the Israeli government earlier to help seven Palestinians from the Gaza Strip obtain Israeli exit visas to take up US Fulbright fellowships.


The State Department said it approached the Israeli government on Friday, after The New York Times published a story about their case, to assist the seven, who had been selected for the prestigious US government scholarship.


Israel tightened its cordon of the Gaza Strip after Hamas took over the the coastal territory nearly a year ago and it gives few Palestinians, besides some who are gravely ill, permission to leave.


The US State Department last week told the seven their Fulbright grants had been withdrawn and it took steps to be able to direct the money to other Palestinians in the West Bank because of the trouble getting the exit visas from Gaza.


After the newspaper story was published, William Burns, the third-ranking US diplomat, approached the Israeli government to seek its help in obtaining exit permits for the seven.


"Was there a faulty decision-making process internal to the State Department in this particular case? Yes, there was," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters.


McCormack sought to put the best face on the matter, saying US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had acted immediately after she learned about the problem to try to fix it.


"A real test of management is if there is in fact a bad process and a bad outcome, do you go back and fix it? - and that's what we have done, we hope," he added.


On Friday, the US government said it would find money for the seven to take up their fellowships and on Sunday Israel said it would try to assist them in getting exit permits.


פרסום ראשון: 06.03.08, 08:09
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