Government says USA decision to close PLO office in Washington regrettable

Hannah Rogers
September 13, 2018

The State Department announced Monday it would close the mission, accusing the Palestinians of refusing to engage with the United States or Israel and of rejecting outright a still-unseen U.S. peace plan. "As such, and reflecting congressional concerns, the administration has decided that the PLO office in Washington will close at this point".

Bolton is also expected to threaten to impose severe sanctions against the International Criminal Court (ICC) if it attempts to investigate or consider any war crime charges against Israel raised by the Palestinians.

A week earlier, the administration slashed bilateral USA aid for projects in the West Bank and Gaza.

This move leaves the Palestinian Authority (previously known as the PLO) without a formal presence in the USA capital and comes after the White House said it was cutting $25 million in funding for health services in heavily-Palestinian East Jerusalem.

The move comes a day after the US closed the Palestinian de facto embassy in Washington because of its leaders' refusal to enter peace talks with Israel.

Palestinian officials, however, have ruled out any American role in the peace process since U.S. President Donald Trump unilaterally recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital previous year.

Husam Zomlot told The Associated Press the closure of the PLO mission would not deter Palestinians from seeking a state with east Jerusalem as the capital.

Although the US does not recognize Palestinian statehood, the PLO has maintained a "general delegation" office in Washington that facilitates Palestinian officials' interactions with the USA government.

In recent weeks Trump has slashed more than $500 million in aid for Palestinians to push them to the negotiating table in pursuit of a Middle East peace plan that he calls the "ultimate deal".

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Several U.S. presidents in both parties have tried to broker a peace accord without success.

In making such moves, Trump has sided with Israel on core issues in the conflict without publicly asking for any concessions in return.

But the Trump administration is trotting out discussions about the two on the same day - Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year - in a move certain to inflame the White House's already bitter relations with Palestinians.

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein (Likud) said the PLO mission was only good at spreading hatred and incitement and made no effort to advance peace.

The community in Al-Khan Al-Ahmar is one of the 46 Bedouin communities in the central West Bank that the United Nations considers at risk of forcible transfer.

Khan al-Ahmar is in a key location near Jerusalem.

Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign promised to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to contested Jerusalem.

"The U.S. administration has begun to attack the rights of the Palestinian people and worldwide law", Maliki said at a meeting of the Arab League in Cairo, convened to discuss the issue.

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