Q: What does the Government intend to do in order to prevent the Palestinians, the PLO, from establishing political facts in Jerusalem?

A: I want to take this opportunity to clarify something which created a tempest in a teacup. In the Declaration of Principles agreement, we insisted that during the ‘Gaza-Jericho first’ interim arrangement and during the second phase that the PLO will have nothing to do with the matter of a united Jerusalem. We insisted, during this period, the PLO would not be a partner, and that there would be no dialogue on this issue until we discuss the permanent status on all matters pertaining to united Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty. I believe that there is a broad national consensus surrounding the issue of Jerusalem, united under Israeli sovereignty, and the capital of the Jewish people and the State of Israel.

In my eyes, the order of priorities is the political effort, united Jerusalem, important parts of Judea and Samaria, the Golan Heights and Gaza last. Accordingly, we did not want to attach in any form anything that might imply some status for the PLO or the Palestinian Authority in any matters related to eastern Jerusalem. Thus, we did not consent to any letter in this regard that would be directed to the PLO or submitted to the Knesset not with the Declaration of Principles agreement and not with ‘Gaza-Jericho first.’

At the same time, we stated Israel’s position on a given date. The letter was directed not to the PLO, but to a party who offered his services in contacts between us and the PLO. The answers both by the Foreign Minister on 9 September 1993, and in the letter of 11 October were also sent with my knowledge and participation, and I bear responsibility.

Furthermore, the response given by [Police] Minister Shahal was in answer to an attempt on the part of Arafat to lie, i.e. to say that he received a letter. He received no letter from us on the issue of Jerusalem.

The second thing he said that the issue has been discussed and that he received the letter in Cairo, at the conclusion of the negotiations on the ‘Gaza-Jericho first’ agreement is a blatant lie. His whole intention was to suggest that there was a link between the Declaration of Principles agreement and the agreement on the implementation of ‘Gaza-Jericho first,’ and the Jerusalem issue; and there is no truth to this. It is simply a lie. Any attempt on our part to submit the letter given to the Norwegian Foreign Minister regarding one of these two agreements would have meant doing exactly what the PLO wanted as if the Israeli declaration of policy regarding east Jerusalem, that was a remains in effect, was connected to one of these two agreements concerning the interim period.

The PLO and the Likud have joined together to accuse the Government, as if the agreements that have been achieved for the interim period have linked the PLO to Jerusalem. There is not even a shred of truth in this. The PLO is trying to lie, and the Likud is being caught up in it. It is all nonsense.

Our positions have been publicly stated in the Knesset. There were no secrets in them. A letter was sent to the Norwegian Foreign Minister, not the PLO. We have stood on the principle that the PLO can not claim that the agreements achieved, and that will be achieved, concerning the interim period give any standing to what the PLO does, or will do, in east Jerusalem.

Q: But what is the Government actually doing, when it is known that the PLO is trying to create political facts in east Jerusalem?

A: Even before the public storm, two or three weeks ago, we began discussions on the situation in Jerusalem. Over the years, a number of bodies that administer services have sprung up in Jerusalem, some justifiably, for the Palestinian residents in the territories such as the Supreme Muslim Council, which is responsible for the Temple Mount, a holy place to which Palestinians from all of Judea, Samaria, and Gaza come to pray. Since 1967, it has been responsible for religious affairs. There is a medical institution, Mokassed Hospital, which has existed for years under various Governments. It provides medical services not only for the residents of east Jerusalem. There are other areas that do not have any political significance. We intend to examine to what extent the PLO has or will attempt to establish governing bodies in Jerusalem. It is possible, insofar as applying Israeli law to the united Jerusalem is concerned, that special legislation will be needed in order to combat this phenomenon. The PLO undertook an obligation that all governing bodies of the Palestinian Authority, for the interim period, will be located in Jericho. We will insist on this, even if special legislation is necessary.

Q: What about activities at Orient House?

A: If Faisal Husseini wants to be a member of the Palestinian Authority, he will have to be in Jericho. If he wants to remain in Jerusalem, he cannot be a member of the Palestinian Authority.

Q: Meaning, we intend to close Orient House?

A: We will examine that step. The Attorney-General has already been working on that for two weeks. I will hold a discussion, there will be a Cabinet discussion, on what measures are needed, including legislation, in order to ensure that the agreements are honored, and that the authorities that will administer the interim arrangement, as well as all related institutions, will be located in Jericho, not Jerusalem.