JERUSALEM: Israel on Wednesday defended a decision to turn away two Moroccan MPs trying to enter the West Bank from Jordan earlier this week saying they did not have entry visas.
"Every Moroccan citizen, whether or not they are part of a delegation, needs a visa to enter the West Bank via Israel," foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told AFP.
"The two MPs arrived only with their Moroccan passports without coordinating their visit in advance with the ministry of foreign affairs," he said of the incident which took place on Monday at the Allenby Bridge crossing just north of the Dead Sea.
"If we had been warned about their visit, we could have facilitated their entry," Palmor explained, saying the other members of the delegation they were travelling with had been allowed in because they were carrying European passports which do not require visas.
The incident, which saw Ali Salem Chekkaf and Mehdi Bensaid being turned away at the border, has sparked criticism in Rabat with Morocco's parliamentary speaker on Tuesday accusing Israel of a "discriminatory and arrogant act".
The two MPs were travelling with an 18-member delegation from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) which had met King Abdullah II and government officials in Amman on Sunday.
Morocco is one of the rare Arab countries to receive Israeli officials despite the absence of formal diplomatic relations.
Egypt, Jordan and Mauritania are the only Arab states to have forged full diplomatic ties with Israel.