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Phone Co. to PLO: Pay Up or Get Cut Off

April 23, 1995

JERUSALEM (AP) _ Talk isn’t cheap. Just ask the Palestinians, who could lose international phone service for 125,000 people if they don’t pay a $4.6 million bill to Israel’s phone company.

``This is not a political thing. It’s a business decision,″ Ron Mandelbaum, a spokesman for the Bezek phone company, said Sunday.

Bezek has provided international service to the Palestinian self-rule areas of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank city of Jericho since the Israeli-PLO peace agreement last May.

The Palestine Liberation Organization government provides local service.

On Friday, the Israeli company _ 76 percent of which is owned by Israel’s government _ gave the Palestinians until May 7 to pay the bill they’ve run up, or lose their service.

If international service were cut, Palestinians still could make local calls or call phones in Israel, Mandelbaum said.

Israel’s Communications Minister Shulamit Aloni, reached by telephone, told The Associated Press that she supports the ultimatum, after asking Bezek for several months to be patient.

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat ``cannot make a political issue because he’s getting services and contracts and he’s breaking those contracts,″ said Aloni. ``No one is obligated to give services without getting paid.″

Arafat’s Palestinian Authority had no comment.

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