The Trump administration has ordered the closure of the Palestine Liberation Organization office in Washington because the PLO “has not taken steps to advance the start of direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel,” the State Department said Monday.
The decision follows an extended period of estrangement between the Palestinian Authority government on the West Bank and the administration, which has already canceled most U.S. aid to Palestinians and recognized Jerusalem as the Israeli capital. Those moves earlier this year provoked Palestinian withdrawal from talks over a still-to-be-released U.S. plan for peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
“PLO leadership has condemned a U.S. peace plan they have not yet seen and refused to engage with the U.S. government with respect to peace efforts and otherwise,” the statement said. The office has been instructed to close no later than Oct. 10.
Palestinian officials vowed to fight what they called bullying tactics and “collective punishment” of the Palestinian people.
“These people have decided to stand on the wrong side of history by protecting war criminals and destroying the two-state solution,” said chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat. “I told them if you are worried about courts, you should stop aiding and abetting crimes.”
In announcing the closure, the State Department said it was “consistent with” concerns about Palestinian calls for an investigation of Israel by the International Criminal Court. Neither the United States nor Israel recognizes the ICC, and existing U.S. legislation calls for closure of the PLO office following any Palestinian move to use it against Israel.
The latest move against the Palestinians comes as the administration Monday threatened to punish individuals who cooperate with the ICC in a potential investigation of U.S. wartime actions in Afghanistan, according to people familiar with the decision. [Continue reading…]