JERUSALEM (Jul. 8)
Israeli analysts said Tuesday that Jordan’s closure of El Fatah’s operational centers in Amman was major blow to Palestine Liberation Organization chief Yasir Arafat. They described the centers as a vital link between the PLO leadership and residents of the administered territories. El Fatah is the terrorist arm of the PLO loyal to Arafat.
Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin called the Jordanian action “a development in the right direction.” Addressing the Yeshiva University convention here, he said the closures would restrict PLO activities in the territories and reduce terrorism there.
The official communique issued in Amman Monday said the PLO offices shut down were the ones that were reopened over a year ago following the rapprochement between Jordan’s King Hussein and Arafat. They were closed, the communique said, in response to PLO attacks on Jordan.
The Hussein-Arafat relationship disintegrated early this year after prolonged efforts by Hussein to convince Arafat to bring the PLO into the Middle East peace process leading to negotiations with Israel. Hussein announced in February that he was abandoning those efforts because the PLO leadership was “unreliable.”
The centers shut down by the Jordanian authorities include the office of Abu Jihad, Arafat’s deputy in charge of Fatah’s terrorist activities, and the office of “Force 17,” Fatah’s elite corps which was used to protect Arafat and other PLO leaders and engage in terrorist activities.
The Jordanian communique affirmed the legitimacy of the PLO as the sole representative of the Palestinian people. The moves against the Fatah centers were intended to weaken the Fatah leadership rather than the organization itself according to Israeli analysts.
The PLO’s initial reaction was to attack Jordanian Premier Zeid A-Rifai for trying to create an alternative leadership to the PLO. Some East Jerusalem Arabic newspapers condemned the move. Hanna Seniora, the influential editor of Al Fair said Jordan’s action would end whatever Jordanian influence remained in the territories.