Arab Countries Place Busy Signal on Direct Dial Calls from Israel

Israel’s unilateral attempt to open direct-dial telephone connections with the Arab world has encountered a busy signal.

While the Arab countries could not selectively block calls from Israel beamed via satellite from Europe, they were able to pressure European telecommunications companies to stop relaying them, the Jerusalem Post reported Wednesday.

The experiment was started by Bezek, the telecommunications corporation owned by the Israeli government. As of midnight March 25, it became possible for the first time in Israel to telephone parties in 11 Arab states, from neigh-boring Jordan to distant Morocco and Yemen.

A few calls were completed to hotels and news agencies, but thereafter direct dialers to Saudi Arabia, the Persian Gulf emirates and Lebanon got only dial tones.

Spokespersons for Bezek and the Israeli Communications Ministry said they had no information that the Arab states were actively blocking the calls.

But Palestinian sources in East Jerusalem confirmed that some of the Arab governments refused to accept any telephone calls from Europe unless those originating in Israel were eliminated.

“For the Arab countries, it is a matter of principle,” said one source. “They don’t want a highly publicized phone connection with Israel’s state telecommunications corporation.”

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