Desperate Bibi Seeks Votes by Baiting PLO

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In a distinctly Israeli riff on "Wag the Dog," Benjamin Netanyahu is ready to provoke a Palestinian riot in the heart of Jerusalem to revive his flagging election chances. Netanyahu Monday ordered the immediate closure of PLO offices at the organization's unofficial Jerusalem headquarters, despite warnings by his own security officials that such a move would inevitably provoke a violent response. "The fact that Netanyahu is prepared to make such a risky move a week before the election suggests that he's feeling desperate," says TIME Jerusalem bureau chief Lisa Beyer. "There's no urgency to close down those offices -- it's not as if they're building bombs or sheltering Hamas terrorists in there. The timing is entirely related to the election."

A campaign based primarily on his hawkish stand toward the Palestinians has left Netanyahu trailing in the polls in an election focused almost entirely on domestic issues. Moving against Palestinian facilities in Jerusalem may be an attempt to make political capital out of the inevitable violent response, but it could backfire on Bibi. "In the bloody riots that followed the opening of a tunnel at an Islamic holy site in Jerusalem in 1996," says Beyer, "it was widely agreed -- even across traditional political divides -- that Netanyahu had stupidly provoked the Palestinians. It didn't make him very popular." Tensions are mounting, with a Palestinian protest rally scheduled at the building on Tuesday evening. Elsewhere in the city, there's probably some furious polling going on, too.