Search JTA's historical archive dating back to 1923

PLO Refuses to Close U.N. Mission; Order May Take Months to Enforce

March 16, 1988
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Israeli and other diplomats here conceded Tuesday that it may be a long time before the Palestine Liberation Organization’s observer mission to the United Nations is shut down, despite an order by the U.S. Justice Department last Friday that it be closed by March 21.

Attorney General Edwin Meese III, acting in compliance with legislation passed by Congress and signed by President Reagan last Dec. 22, had the order hand-delivered Friday to Zehdi Terzi, the PLO representative at the United Nations.

But Terzi is defiant, He told a news conference here Monday that the PLO does not intend to leave. “We have the right to stay here and we will stay here,” Terzi said, adding, “The only way they (the U.S.) can make me leave is just to put me behind steel bars somewhere and take me away.”

The Justice Department stated in its announcement that if the PLO did not comply with its order, it would seek an injunction in federal court to force compliance. Diplomats here said they believe the Justice Department will follow the scenario, but it will take “a long time” to unfold.

The Arab states, meanwhile, are pressing for a special session of the General Assembly later this week to condemn the United States for its move against the PLO.

That would be redundant inasmuch as the General Assembly voted 143-1 on March 2 for a resolution calling on the United States to “abide by its treaty obligations” under the Headquarters Agreement. Israel cast the only negative vote. The United States did not participate in the voting.


Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Benjamin Netanyahu, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency Tuesday that although the court proceedings against the PLO may take “many months,” he is certain that in the end, the PLO mission will be closed.

Netanyahu noted that U.S. law takes precedence over international law. That same point was made by Charles Cooper, assistant attorney general in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, when he announced the decision Friday to enforce the closure order.

According to observers here, it is not clear whether the United States will have to sue the Unit Nations to settle the dispute. The litigation could take even longer than the “many months” diplomats say it would take to enforce an injunction against the PLO.

Recommended from JTA