In a major diplomatic rebuff, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu canceled a dinner with British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook on Tuesday to protest Cook's meeting with a Palestinian official at a disputed Jewish housing project in Jerusalem.
Netanyahu's move came after days of harsh words between Israel and Britain over the visit by Cook.Minutes before the Israeli leader was to meet with Cook, Netanyahu's office announced that the talks would be shortened and that a small, private dinner planned for Tuesday night had been canceled. Even the traditional handshake was called off.
Israeli officials complained that Cook tricked them and met with a Palestinian official at the Har Homa housing project after promising not to.
Israeli officials also were incensed by Cook's decision not to visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial - a routine stop for foreign dignitaries. Instead, he chose to lay a wreath at a memorial for Deir Yassin, scene of a massacre of Palestinians by a Jewish militia in 1948.
Israeli Defense Minister Yitzhak Mordechai said after a meeting with Cook that the British foreign secretary had not lived up to promises concerning his tour of Har Homa, the controversial housing project going up on war-won land in east Jerusalem.
"It is not OK for a foreign minister . . . who comes here not to carry out the agreements," Mordechai told reporters. "I would expect from such a person who wants to help in advancing agreements, to carry out agreements himself."
Earlier Tuesday, Israeli protesters chanting "Anti-Semite!" and "Robin, go home," mobbed Cook during his visit to Har Homa.
Huddling under umbrellas in heavy rain, Cook and his entourage were shown around for a few minutes by Israel's Cabinet secretary, Danny Naveh, and talked separately later with a Palestinian legislator who has led the fight against the project.
Cook said Israel must stop expanding Jewish settlements if there is to be progress in deadlocked Middle East peace talks.
Cook said he was touring the region in hopes of breathing life into the Mideast peace process, but Israeli officials said he was wasting his time.