The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) received notice on Monday that the Trump administration would be closing the organization’s Washington, D.C. office, reports the Washington Post.
The decision is in line with the Trump administration’s method for a solution in Israel-Palestine peace negotiations, looking to pressure the Palestinians to the table after they have denied discussions since the U.S. moved its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. This decision follows on from Trump withdrawing over $200 million in aid from the country, as earlier reported by the Inquisitr.
Shuttering the office comes after threats from Trump of taking exactly this action, as the administration warned would happen if Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas proceeded with his calls for Israel to be prosecuted by the International Criminal Court (ICC).
In a draft of a speech to be given by National Security Adviser John Bolton, obtained by the Wall Street Journal, the Trump administration suggests further punishments could happen should Palestine and the ICC investigate either the U.S. or Israel.
“If the court comes after us, Israel or other allies, we will not sit quietly. We will sanction their funds in the U.S. financial system and we will prosecute them in the U.S. criminal system. We will do the same for any company or state that assists an ICC investigation of Americans,” says Bolton’s speech.
Dr. Saeb Erekat on the announcement to close the Palestinian Mission in Washington: This dangerous escalation shows that the US is willing to disband the international system in order to protect Israeli crimes https://t.co/opnbuaqImm pic.twitter.com/KfStS2Sksh
— Palestine PLO-NAD (@nadplo) September 10, 2018
The response of Palestinians has been swift and angry with Palestinian officials promising they will not stop their pursuit of charges against Israel at the ICC, with the chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat releasing a strongly worded statement.
“These people have decided to stand on the wrong side of history by protecting war criminals and destroying the two-state solution. I told them if you are worried about courts, you should stop aiding and abetting crimes.”
Along with the bombings occurring in the region, the Palestinian officials argue that the U.S. also endorses Israeli settlement activity on the Palestinian West Bank, an area that Israel also claims as its own.
The timing of the announcement is also set to frustrate Palestinians, coming just three days before the 25th anniversary of the Oslo Accords, an agreement between Israel and the PLO which saw each party recognize the other, launching the possibility of a two-state solution, allowing Palestinian self-governance.
With the U.S. not recognizing the Palestinian state, the PLO office has been a de facto embassy for Palestine. With the office being closed by the administration, there is now no official representation of the Palestine government in Washington, leading to fears that the peace process is now stalled.
That led to the PLO’s American representative, Husam Zumlot, to accuse the Trump administration of doing “irreversible damage to the U.S.-Palestinian relationship” with Palestinian officials repeatedly stating that the U.S. can no longer be a part of the peace process as, to the Palestinians, the U.S. is no longer an impartial third party.
It seems that the PLO will continue to seek redress against Israel at the ICC, and as such, time will tell if Bolton and the Trump administration follows through on the threats Bolton is expected to announce.