Trump Administration to Close PLO Office in Washington, DC

US President Donald Trump and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. (Photo: File)

The United States will shut the Palestine Liberation Organization’s diplomatic office in Washington, DC, over the Palestinian government’s refusal to enter into US-led negotiations with Israel.

PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat said in a statement on Monday:

“We have been notified by a US official of their decision to close the Palestinian mission to the US … This is yet another affirmation of the Trump administration’s policy to collectively punish the Palestinian people, including by cutting financial support for humanitarian services including health and education.”

According to a draft text of a speech seen by the Wall Street Journal and Reuters, Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, will also reportedly threaten the International Criminal Court (ICC) with sanctions if it carries out investigations into the US and Israel.

Bolton is expected to say in his speech to the Federalist Society, a conservative group, in Washington, DC:

“The United States will always stand with our friend and ally, Israel … The Trump administration will not keep the office open when the Palestinians refuse to start direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel.”

The speech is also expected to say that the Trump administration “will fight back” if the ICC formally proceeds with opening an investigation into alleged war crimes committed by US service members and intelligence professionals during the war in Afghanistan.

If such a probe proceeds, the Trump administration will consider banning judges and prosecutors from entering the US, put sanctions on any funds they have in the US financial system and prosecute them in US courts.

The draft text said:

“We will not cooperate with the ICC. We will provide no assistance to the ICC. We will not join the ICC. We will let the ICC die on its own. After all, for all intents and purposes, the ICC is already dead to us.”

The action against the PLO, which serves as the main entity representing the Palestinian people, is the latest in a series of measures by the Trump administration against the Palestinian leadership.

Over the past year, Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, and senior adviser, has repeatedly questioned Mahmoud Abbas’ commitment to peace and Trump’s so-called “deal of the century”.

The Palestinian leadership, which sees East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state, suspended contacts with the US, after Washington recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel late last year.

Monday’s announcement comes just weeks after the US said it would cut more than $200m in economic aid for the Palestinians.

On Sunday, Haaretz reported that the US has also decided to cut more than $20m in foreign aid meant to support hospitals in East Jerusalem.

According to Haaretz, the hospitals treat Palestinian patients who require cancer and eye treatments.

The decision to cut funding comes amid a severe humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip, where more than 160 Palestinians protesting for their right to return to the areas from which they were forcibly expelled from in 1948 have been killed by Israeli gunfire since March 30 during weeks-long demonstrations near the fence with Israel.

(AJE, PC, Social Media)

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