Israel extends closure of Palestinian offices in Jerusalem

Israel is keeping Palestinian institutions in east Jerusalem shut tight, despite its pledge to reopen them under a recently revived peace blueprint, Palestinian officials said Thursday. This month, the officials said, Israel renewed its order to close a leading Palestinian think tank known as Orient House, the city 's Arab Chamber of Commerce and other symbolic buildings that are a rallying point for the Palestinians' claims to Jerusalem's eastern sector as capital of a future state. Israeli police shut down the institutions in 2001, shortly after the relaunch of the Palestinian uprising against Israel, and has since issued orders every six months renewing the closure. Azzam Abu Saoud, director of the 72-year-old Chamber of Commerce, said the closure order was extended on Feb. 7 despite the renewal of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians and Israel's commitment to implement the internationally endorsed "road map" peace plan. At an international peace gathering in Annapolis, Maryland, in November, Israel and the Palestinians agreed to "immediately implement their respective obligations under the performance-based road map."