Orient House

Orient House

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Orient House is a building located in East Jerusalem
East Jerusalem
East Jerusalem or Eastern Jerusalem refer to the parts of Jerusalem captured and annexed by Jordan in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War and then captured and annexed by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War...

 that served as the headquarters of the Palestine Liberation Organization
Palestine Liberation Organization
The Palestine Liberation Organization is a political and paramilitary organization which was created in 1964. It is recognized as the "sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people" by the United Nations and over 100 states with which it holds diplomatic relations, and has enjoyed...

 (PLO) in the 1980s and 1990s. Built in 1897 by Ismail Musa al-Husseini
Musa al-Husayni
Musa Kazim al-Husayni was nominated to several senior posts in the Ottoman administration. He belongs to the prominent al-Husayni family of northeastern Jerusalem...

, it has been owned by the Al-Husayni
Al-Husayni
Husayni is the name of a prominent Palestinian Arab clan formerly based in Jerusalem. Several members of the clan held important political positions such as Mayor and Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and founded and led many Palestinian Arab Islamist groups such as the Holy War Army, the Palestine Arab...

 family since. Originally intended to serve as a family residence, it was at times vacated to host important guests, such as Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany in 1898, and Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia in 1936.

Overview


During the 1948 Arab-Israeli War
1948 Arab-Israeli War
The 1948 Arab–Israeli War, known to Israelis as the War of Independence or War of Liberation The war commenced after the termination of the British Mandate for Palestine and the creation of an independent Israel at midnight on 14 May 1948 when, following a period of civil war, Arab armies invaded...

, Orient House remained east of the cease-fire line, in the area controlled by Jordan
Jordan
Jordan , officially the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan , Al-Mamlaka al-Urduniyya al-Hashemiyya) is a kingdom on the East Bank of the River Jordan. The country borders Saudi Arabia to the east and south-east, Iraq to the north-east, Syria to the north and the West Bank and Israel to the west, sharing...

. Between 1948–1950, the headquarters of the United Nations Reliefs and Works Agency (UNRWA) was located there and two years later, its owner turned it into a luxury hotel called "The New Orient House". Following the 1967 war and the capture of East Jerusalem
East Jerusalem
East Jerusalem or Eastern Jerusalem refer to the parts of Jerusalem captured and annexed by Jordan in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War and then captured and annexed by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War...

 by Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

, the hotel was closed and the building was mostly neglected.

In 1983, the Arab Scientific Association, a PLO affiliated organization led by Faisal Husseini
Faisal Husseini
Faisal Abdel Qader Al-Husseini was a Palestinian politician who was considered a possible future leader of the Palestinian people....

, rented a part of the house. In 1988, Israel closed the House and banned PLO activity in it. It was renewed 4 years later in 1992. It was then rented and renovated by Faisal Husseini. In an exchange of letters preceding the 1993 Oslo Accords
Oslo Accords
The Oslo Accords, officially called the Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements or Declaration of Principles , was an attempt to resolve the ongoing Palestinian-Israeli conflict...

, Israel promised that it would not violate the right of the House to continue to operate freely.

During his first tenure as Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu
Benjamin Netanyahu
Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu is the current Prime Minister of Israel. He serves also as the Chairman of the Likud Party, as a Knesset member, as the Health Minister of Israel, as the Pensioner Affairs Minister of Israel and as the Economic Strategy Minister of Israel.Netanyahu is the first and, to...

 "tried and failed to have Orient House shut down, amid warning from the international community
International community
The international community is a term used in international relations to refer to all peoples, cultures and governments of the world or to a group of them. The term is used to imply the existence of common duties and obligations between them...

 that such a step would be regarded very negatively."

When Ehud Olmert
Ehud Olmert
Ehud Olmert is an Israeli politician and lawyer. He served as Prime Minister of Israel from 2006 to 2009, as a Cabinet Minister from 1988 to 1992 and from 2003 to 2006, and as Mayor of Jerusalem from 1993 to 2003....

 was serving in his post as Mayor of Jerusalem, he led efforts to protest against the way Orient House was functioning, refusing to meet with Faisal Husseini and demanding that Orient House pay 300,000 USD in municipal taxes. Husseini refused the request, stating that Orient House, as a diplomatic institution
Diplomatic immunity
Diplomatic immunity is a form of legal immunity and a policy held between governments that ensures that diplomats are given safe passage and are considered not susceptible to lawsuit or prosecution under the host country's laws...

, was exempt. Husseini died a few years later in May 2001.

During the Second Intifada in August 2001, Ariel Sharon
Ariel Sharon
Ariel Sharon is an Israeli statesman and retired general, who served as Israel’s 11th Prime Minister. He has been in a permanent vegetative state since suffering a stroke on 4 January 2006....

 determined that with the expectation of a massive Israeli response, the conditions were as favorable as they would ever be for Israel to undertake the forcible closure of Orient House. Two days after the Sbarro restaurant suicide bombing, the Israeli cabinet
Cabinet of Israel
The Cabinet of Israel is a formal body composed of government officials called ministers, chosen and led by the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister must appoint members based on the distribution of votes to political parties during legislative elections, and its composition must be approved by a...

 voted to close the Orient House, and the building was raided by Israeli security forces. Documents proving that Palestinian security services had been illegally operating in Jerusalem were found, including a list of Arab residents of Jerusalem that had been detained by Palestinian security agents. A stolen Uzi submachine gun was also found. Items confiscated
Confiscation
Confiscation, from the Latin confiscatio 'joining to the fiscus, i.e. transfer to the treasury' is a legal seizure without compensation by a government or other public authority...

 by Israeli authorities included personal belongings, confidential information relating to the Jerusalem issue, documents referring to the 1991 Madrid conference and the Arab Studies Society photography collection. The personal books and documents of Faisal Husseini were summarily impounded. Other Palestinian institutions in Jerusalem, such as the Governor's House and the headquarters of Force 17
Force 17
Force 17 was a commando and special operations terror unit of the Palestinian Fatah movement and later of the Office of the Chairman of the Palestinian Authority. It was formed in the early 1970s by Ali Hassan Salameh ....

 were shut down and raided in the same operation. Weapons, explosives and documents linking these institutions' activities were found there.

In January 2010, at a meeting of the Quartet on the Middle East
Quartet on the Middle East
The Quartet on the Middle East, sometimes called the Diplomatic Quartet or Madrid Quartet or simply the Quartet, is a foursome of nations and international and supranational entities involved in mediating the peace process in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Quartet are the United Nations, the...

, representatives from the European Union
European Union
The European Union is an economic and political union of 27 independent member states which are located primarily in Europe. The EU traces its origins from the European Coal and Steel Community and the European Economic Community , formed by six countries in 1958...

 and Russia
Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

 suggested reopening Orient House and other Palestinian institutions in East Jerusalem as a way of bringing the Palestinian Authority back to the negotiating table. The suggestion was made after George Mitchell
George J. Mitchell
George John Mitchell, Jr., is the former U.S. Special Envoy for Middle East Peace under the Obama administration. A Democrat, Mitchell was a United States Senator who served as the Senate Majority Leader from 1989 to 1995...

 told those at the meeting that Palestinian representatives had insisted that they would not return to negotiations until Israel halted all settlement
Israeli settlement
An Israeli settlement is a Jewish civilian community built on land that was captured by Israel from Jordan, Egypt, and Syria during the 1967 Six-Day War and is considered occupied territory by the international community. Such settlements currently exist in the West Bank...

 activity in the eastern half of the city.

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