Olmert Considering Re-Opening Orient House to PA

PA sources in Jerusalem say Prime Minister Olmert is seriously considering approving Abbas's request to re-open a PA office in Jerusalem.

Hillel Fendel ,

Orient House with a PLO flag
Orient House with a PLO flag

Palestinian Authority sources in Jerusalem say they have received signs that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is seriously considering approving Abbas's request to re-open a PA office in Jerusalem.

The Orient House, a building in eastern Jerusalem not far from the Old City's Damascus Gate, was the focus of forbidden Palestinian Authority activities - including the funding of terrorism - until Israel closed it down in 2001. 

PA Members Say
The Israeli newspaper Makor Rishon reports that PA personnel who worked in Orient House before it was closed are saying they have received clear indications that the building may soon be re-opened.  Rafik Hariri, a top aide to PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas, reportedly signaled to them that Israel has decided to reconsider a recent request Abbas made to Olmert regarding the opening of the PA institutions in eastern Jerusalem. 

At the time of the request, during a meeting between the two this past September, Olmert did not turn Abbas down flat, but rather said the matter requires careful checking. 

Alternatively, both PA and Israeli judicial figures are trying to find a way to allow the Palestinian Research Institute to operate in the Orient House, as it did in the past, without a need to rescind the closure orders. 

Documents Prove Terrorist Activities
Documents captured during Operation Defensive Shield in the spring of 2002 proved conclusively that the Orient House served as a center for terrorist activities.  They also showed that the building served as a fully-functioning arm of the Palestinian Authority in Jerusalem, something that was forbidden according to the Oslo Agreement.

In 1999, then-Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu ordered the building closed in his last major act in office, but the Supreme Court intervened and nullified the order.  Only two years later, after the Sbarros pizzeria suicide bombing in August 2001 in which 15 Israelis were murdered, did Netanyahu's successor Ehud Barak close the headquarters. 

The Makor Rishon report states that the Prime Minister's Office responded that it knows nothing of the above developments, and that the closure remains in effect.