Israel’s Security and Strategic Affairs Minister, Gilad Erdan, yesterday extended an order banning a number of Palestinian Authority (PA) offices from operating in Jerusalem.
The order will restrict the activities of Orient House – which served as the headquarters of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) near Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood in the 1980s and 90s – as well as other institutions including the Palestinian Prisoner’s Club, the Chamber of Commerce, the Supreme Council for the Arab Tourism Industry, the Centre for Palestinian Studies and the Office for Social and Statistical Studies.
Speaking about the move, Erdan said that “the extension of the closure of the Palestinian institutions is a message to the Palestinian Authority and the residents of East Jerusalem,” the Times of Israel reported, citing Israel’s Channel 12 news. Erdan continued:
The PA has recently been trying to strengthen its presence in East Jerusalem in sophisticated ways […] I will continue to strengthen Israeli sovereignty throughout Jerusalem and prevent any Palestinian attempt to create a foothold in the eastern part of the city.
Despite being declared a corpus separatum under the 1947 UN Partition Plan, Israel has consistently sought to exercise control over Jerusalem, occupying the east of the city during the Six Day War of 1967. Though under the 1990s Oslo Accords Jerusalem was designated a “final status” issue, Israel has continually pushed a “facts on the ground” policy which has sought to exclude Palestinian institutions and citizens from the city using legal mechanisms, by revoking residency permits and pushing infrastructure projects.
Recently Israel has strengthened its crack down on PA activity in Jerusalem. Earlier this month Erdan banned an event slated to take place at Makassed Hospital, east of Jerusalem’s Old City (Al-Tur). The event planned to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the hospital’s founding, but was accused by Erdan of intending to display “symbols of Palestinian sovereignty in Israel’s capital”.
Israel has also arrested a number of PA officials, with the PA’s Governor in Jerusalem Adnan Ghaith being repeatedly targeted. In November, Israeli forces raided Ghaith’s office in Al-Ram – just north of Jerusalem beyond Israel’s Separation Wall – assaulting a number of employees and leaving three people suffering temporary asphyxiation from teargas. Throughout November and December, Ghaith was repeatedly detained by Israeli forces, which raided his home in Silwan despite providing no reason for his arrest. In December, Ghaith was banned from entering the occupied West Bank for six months after the Israeli army claimed he engages in “illegal” activities.
Erdan is no stranger to imposing anti-Palestinian measures in other fields. Just today, he threatened to expel Amnesty International from Israel after the NGO published a report criticising digital travel portals such as Airbnb and Booking.com for engaging with Israel’s illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank. Erdan quickly took to Twitter to condemn Amnesty’s report, labelling the organisation anti-Semitic and a supporter of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. For its part, Amnesty hit back against Erdan’s claim, labelling it “blatant incitement based on lies, deceptions and distortions that are easy to refute and are intended to divert the discussion from the subject at hand”.