Palestinian offices sidestep closure by denying PLO ties

JERUSALEM — Israel and the Palestinian Authority avoided a battle over the impending closure of three Palestinian institutions in East Jerusalem with a compromise allowing them to operate.

Under the agreement, the institutions are expected to sign declarations that they have no ties, financial or otherwise, with the Palestinian Authority, the governing arm of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

The compromise was reached 24 hours before closure orders by Israeli Police Minister Moshe Shahal were to take effect against the Palestinian Health Council, the Palestinian Broadcast Authority and the Palestinian Statistics Center. Shahal issued the closure orders Monday of last week, saying that the three institutions had illegal ties to the Palestinian Authority.

Israel has been concerned that the Palestinian Authority has been attempting to establish in East Jerusalem the de facto capital of a future Palestinian state.

Under the terms of the self-rule accord, the Palestinian Authority must restrict its activities to those areas under its control — currently the Gaza Strip and the West Bank city of Jericho.

The crisis was averted Thursday of last week, when the head of the Palestinian Health Council, Fathi Arafat — Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat's brother — signed a declaration stating that the council had no connections to the Palestinian Authority and that it was funded by international donations.

Shahal agreed to a request fromthe Broadcasting Authority and the Statistics Center to delay the closure order in order to give staff time to determine their positions on the matter.