Palestine Liberation Organisation vows to suspend relations with US after Washington DC office closure threats

US officials deny move is designed to increase leverage over Palestinians to accept terms of Jared Kushner's plan for Middle East peace

Wednesday 22 November 2017 16:20 GMT
Comments
The PLO has run afoul of a little-known legal provision which states it cannot operate an office in Washington if it has taken cases against Israelis to the International Criminal Court
The PLO has run afoul of a little-known legal provision which states it cannot operate an office in Washington if it has taken cases against Israelis to the International Criminal Court (AFP/Getty Images)

Support truly
independent journalism

Our mission is to deliver unbiased, fact-based reporting that holds power to account and exposes the truth.

Whether $5 or $50, every contribution counts.

Support us to deliver journalism without an agenda.

Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas

Editor

The Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) has threatened to cut off all communication with the US over the Trump administration’s plans to close their diplomatic mission in Washington DC.

The administration announced last week that the PLO, which represents all Palestinians, had run afoul of a little-known legal provision which states it cannot operate an office in Washington if it has taken cases against Israelis to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas asked the ICC to investigate Israeli citizens for crimes against Palestinians in September, which State Department officials speaking on condition of anonymity to the AP said had been the determining factor in Mr Trump’s move against the PLO.

Trump: Israelis and Palestinians are 'reaching for peace'

It is unclear when the office will close, or whether the building will have to be vacated or just closed to the public.

In a video statement posted to social media senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said the US decision was “very unfortunate and unacceptable,” and accused Washington of bowing to pressure from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government “at a time when we are trying to cooperate to achieve the ultimate deal.”

“We will put on hold all our communications with this American administration,” he added.

There was no immediate reaction from the Trump administration, although US officials had insisted before Mr Erekat's statement that the move wasn't aimed at increasing leverage over the Palestinians.

Mr Netanyahu's office said the closure was “a matter of US law.”

The dispute threatens to derail President Trump’s bid to broker a Middle East peace deal - a task he has entrusted to his son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

Suspending ties with the US, which could jeopardise millions in US aid, is a risky move for the PLO. While the Palestinian authorities are publicly supportive of renewed US-brokered peace efforts, many already believe Mr Trump’s close ties to the Israeli government mean any proposed deals will not favour them.

Israeli minister attempts selfie with Trump to Netanyahu's dismay

However, an impasse in talks to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would complicate US efforts to get Saudi Arabia and other Arab states to unite with the US and Israel against Iran: Many states may be reluctant to get to close to the Israelis without progress on the Palestinian issue.

Under US law the president has 90 days to determine whether the Palestinians are engaging in “direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel”. If he determines they are, the mission can reopen.

News agencies contributed to this report

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in