U.S. orders closure of Palestinian office in Washington
London, September 10, 2018 (AltAfrica)-The Trump administration has ordered the closure of the Palestine Liberation Organisation 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.
In announcing the closure, the State Department also said it was “consistent with . . . concerns” over 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 is expected later Monday to threaten 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.
White House national security adviser John Bolton is expected to outline threats of sanctions and a ban on travel to the United States for people involved in the attempted prosecution of Americans before the international court in an address to the Federalist Society, a conservative and libertarian policy group.
Bolton is a longtime opponent of the court on grounds that it violates national sovereignty.
His speech, titled “Protecting American Constitutionalism and Sovereignty from International Threats,” is Bolton’s first formal address since joining the administration in April.
Palestinian officials on Monday vowed to fight what they called bullying tactics and “collective punishment” of the Palestinian people. Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said he was officially notified of the decision ahead of Bolton’s speech.
“These people have decided to stand on the wrong side of history by protecting war criminals and destroying the two-state solution,” Erekat said. “I told them if you are worried about courts, you should stop aiding and abetting crimes.”
Bolton is likely to lay out American opposition to the court and propose measures including strengthening existing agreements with other countries to shield U.S. personnel from international prosecution, and the threat of sanctions or travel restrictions for people involved in prosecuting Americans.
Bolton’s announcement is closely related to concern at the Pentagon and among intelligence agencies about potential U.S. liability to prosecution at the court over actions in Afghanistan, said a senior administration official familiar with aspects of the forthcoming announcement.