TEL AVIV (Jun. 12)
Yasser Arafat had planned to make a ceremonial arrival Sunday in the West Bank town of Jericho, the seat of the new Palestinian provisional government.
But the day came and went with no sign of the Palestine Liberation Organization leader, and PLO officials now say the long-awaited arrival may not take place until the end of June or the beginning of July.
Arafat reportedly had ordered the closing of all PLO offices in Tunis by June 15. But there were no signs this week that the Tunis offices were actually closing.
Israeli officials meanwhile are completing their preparations for Arafat’s arrival, which has met with calls for protests from Israeli political, religious and settlers groups.
These members of a highly vocal opposition are threatening to block all Israeli roads along which Arafat may pass when he travels from Jericho to the Gaza Strip, the two areas which last month came under Palestinian autonomy.
The Israeli defense establishment reportedly is arranging for the call-up of a maximum number of defense, security and police forces to patrol around Jericho, Gaza, the roads leading between them as well as border entry points.
According to some reports, Arafat will travel from Jericho to Gaza aboard an Israeli helicopter.
Announcements that Arafat intends to visit Jerusalem to attend prayers at the Mosque of Omar on the Temple Mount have led to threats of massive demonstrations by religious and settlers groups.
Heightening the tensions was a call last week issued by former Chief Rabbi Shlomo Goren for the assassination of Arafat, a move Goren justified on the basis of both international and Jewish law.