Ireland has upgraded the status of the Palestinian delegation to Ireland to that of “mission.”  This means its head is the equivalent of an ambassador.

But the Israeli government is accusing Ireland of a long-term “bias” in the Middle East.

The “Jerusalem Post” reported that the upgrade means the head of the delegation, Dr. Hikmat Ajjuri, now officially holds the title of “ambassador-head of mission.”  He is now entitled to present his credentials to President Mary McAleese.

It was previously thought that Ireland would offer official recognition to Palestine as a state. However, the move to upgrade the delegation has been slammed by the Israeli foreign ministry.

Spokesperson for the ministry, Yigal Palmor, said Israel regretted Ireland’s decision but was not surprised.

He said, “It is in line with Ireland’s longtime biased policy in the Middle East.”

Another foreign ministry official spoke to “The Irish Times.”  He said Ireland had long been considered “the most anti-Israel member state of the European Union…Foreign Minister (Micheal) Martin was probably eager to push this through given the likelihood that there will soon be a change of government in Ireland.”

It is expected that a number of EU nations will now follow suit.

AFP has reported that the move was hailed by the Palestinians as “excellent progress.”  Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki said that Ireland’s move would bolster European support for a resumption of the peace talks that collapsed last year.