Palestinians appeal Israeli order to close PLO offices
Riots threatened if offices close
May 11, 1999
JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu's potentially explosive plan to close down three PLO offices in Jerusalem headed for Israel's highest court Tuesday after negotiators failed to settle on a compromise plan.
Palestinians occupying the offices have said they will not allow Israeli police to enter. They also warned there would be rioting if the offices are closed.
With just a few days left until the Israeli elections, Netanyahu on Monday ordered three offices closed, saying they were carrying out politicial activities on behalf of the Palestinian Authority.
A flurry of negotiations followed Monday between Israeli Internal Security Minister Avigdor Kahalani and the PLO. The Palestinians were given until 7 p.m. local time (noon EDT) to accept an Israeli compromise that would have closed two of the three offices.
The Palestinians, after consultations with Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat, rejected that proposal and made a counter offer, according to Jawad Boulous, a PLO attorney. However, that offer was rejected by the Israelis and the order to close the offices was served on Boulous around 10 p.m. (3 p.m. EDT).
The Palestinians had 24 hours to file an appeal, but that was done for them by a group of Israeli professors who asked Israel's High Court of Justice to block the order.
Orient House -- where the offices are located -- has been a symbol for Palestinians who want East Jerusalem to be the capital of a Palestinian state.
It has acted as a lightning rod for Netanyahu and Israeli right-wing parties who have vowed the Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel.
Netanyahu's opponents, as well as the Palestinians, have accused Netanyahu of attempting to provoke a potentially violent confrontation in an attempt to galvanize his flagging support among the right-wing parties that have supported him in the past.
In the latest poll, Ehud Barak, the candidate of the One Israel coalition, was leading Netanyahu 45 percent to 37 percent. Barak has been gaining among Israeli voters who came to Israel from Russia, compromise the largest voting block, and favor a peace with the Palestinians. Netanyahu's coalition is made up of conservative, orthodox, and right-wing parties who oppose the declaration of a Palestinian state.
The poll taken for Israel Channel 2 Television, shows that if Center Party candidate Yitzhak Mordechai and Arab candidate Azmi Bishara were to withdraw from the race, Barak would win outright with 52 percent of the vote to 40 for Netanyahu.
In ordering the offices closed, Netanyahu singled off the office of PLO representative Faisal Husseini who he said was welcoming foreign ambassadors, in effect operating as a foreign office for the Palestine Authority.
Under the Oslo According, the Authority has no official standing in Jerusalem.
The United States had also attempted to persuade the Netanyahu and the Israeli government to go slow and not provoke a crisis over Orient House.
Netanyahu orders PLO offices in Jerusalem closed
Israel's Institutions of Government
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