PA Institutions in Abu Dis Cut Off From East Jerusalem

Dozens of official Palestinian Authority institutions located in the village of Abu Dis are being cut off from Jerusalem by the security fence that Israel is building around the city, thereby preventing those offices from providing services to East Jerusalem residents.

Dozens of official Palestinian Authority institutions located in the village of Abu Dis are being cut off from Jerusalem by the security fence that Israel is building around the city, thereby preventing those offices from providing services to East Jerusalem residents.

The section of the fence that runs along the border between Abu Dis and Jerusalem is a concrete wall eight meters high.

In 1996, the PA began building numerous government offices in Abu Dis, located on the outskirts of Jerusalem, on the theory that the village would become part of "Palestinian Jerusalem" under a final-status agreement that would make Jerusalem the capital of both Israel and the Palestinian state. These include a luxurious multimillion-dollar building a few kilometers from the Temple Mount that was supposed to become the Palestinian parliament after a final-status agreement was signed.

In the course of Operation Defensive Shield in April 2002, the Israel Defense Forces took control of Abu Dis and tried to shut down some of these offices. However, many Palestinian offices continue to operate in the town, such as the Ministry for Local Government, whose tasks include monitoring Israeli construction in East Jerusalem and the surrounding villages. The separation fence will make it impossible for ministry officials to continue operating in East Jerusalem, and the same holds true for other Palestinian offices based in Abu Dis, including the Interior Ministry and the Muslim Waqf.

In particular, the fence is aimed at keeping out members of the Palestinian security services, who, despite the fact that East Jerusalem is technically still under control of the Israel Police, have operated freely in the city for years, even running interrogation centers and lock-ups. These security forces are all based in Abu Dis, as is Jamil Othman Nasser - the man appointed by PA Chairman Yasser Arafat to serve as "governor of Jerusalem," who works closely with the PA security services in the effort to control affairs in East Jerusalem. Nasser's staff will now also find it much harder to gain access to the city.

For other offices, the problem is less access to East Jerusalem than access to other cities. The Palestinian telephone company, for instance, is also located in Abu Dis, and its technicians used to travel through Jerusalem to get to Ramallah and Bethlehem. Now, due to the fence, they will have to find alternative routes.

Arafat, however, is still trying to maintain control over East Jerusalem's Palestinian population through a body called "the Inner Jerusalem Committee," which is comprised of PA representatives in the city. On Saturday, Arafat convened the committee to discuss what has become known as "the accusatory posters affair."

The affair began last week, when the Israel Police arrested nine Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem - including some well-known public figures affiliated with Arafat's Fatah movement - on suspicion of being part of a ring that forged land ownership deeds and then used them to defraud both Jewish and Palestinian residents of the city of property worth tens of millions of shekels. The arrests sparked a "poster war" in East Jerusalem, in which all the various Palestinian organizations put up posters accusing members of rival organizations of being land dealers who collaborated with Israel. In particular, these accusations were hurled at the nine arrested men - who, after some were freed on bail, fought back by putting up posters of their own hurling the same accusations at senior Fatah officials, including Fatah members of the Palestinian Legislative Council.

Virtually no senior Palestinian figure in East Jerusalem was spared a poster attack, indicating that there is no local leader who enjoys legitimacy in the eyes of East Jerusalem residents.