Cruz, Ros-Lehtinen: Palestinian Embassy in Washington ‘Violates U.S. Law’

US State Department official says the Palestine Liberation Organization office in Washington can remain open but must restrict activity to the peace process with Israel
AFP

TEL AVIV – Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Attorney General Jeff Sessions have been urged by two U.S. lawmakers to shutter the Washington D.C. bureau of the Palestine Liberation Organization, which endorses “flagrant violations” of U.S. law such as payments to terrorists.

In a letter, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) wrote that “the PLO office in the United States has existed and exists today in violation of U.S. law” and cited the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1987 as justification for closing the Palestinian embassy.

“Thirty years ago, Congress found, as part of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1987 … that the PLO and its affiliates were terrorist organizations threatening the United States,” Cruz and Ros-Lehtinen wrote. “Congress therefore prohibited the PLO, among other things, from establishing or maintaining an office anywhere in the United States.”

They continued, “Decades of PLO actions have confirmed the wisdom of that conclusion. Congress has sought an explanation from the Administration as to the legal basis for permitting the PLO to maintain its office in the United States despite a clear statutory command to the contrary.”

In May 2017, Cruz and Ros-Lehtinen introduced the PLO Accountability Act in both the Senate and House, and claimed that the PLO had failed to adhere to its commitment of forging a peace process, and instead was continuing with its “pay-for”slay” scheme paying salaries to convicted terrorists and their families.

The U.S., the two members of Congress said at the time, “must send a strong message that there will be consequences for these actions by, among other things, closing down the PLO office in Washington, DC, and utilizing the range of tools available under current U.S. law.”

In their letter on Thursday, the two requested “all Department of State and Department of Justice memoranda, white papers, and other policy documents relevant or relating to this issue, dating back to January 20, 2017.”

The two had also demanded the Washington mission be closed office in a December 2015 letter to then-secretary of state John Kerry. According to a U.S. law passed in December 2015, closing down the offices was to be a penalty if the PA pursued the prosecution of Israelis at the Hague-based International Criminal Court.

Last month, the PA did just that when it asked the ICC  to investigate alleged Israeli crimes following the recent Hamas-planned violent riots along the Gaza border.

In November 2017, the U.S. government was charged with renegading on an earlier decision to close the PLO office when then-secretary of state Rex Tillerson refused to certify the 2015 Congressional mandate. The measure allows President Donald Trump 90 days to decide whether the Palestinians are engaging in “direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel” and if not he could close down the mission. The 90 days have long since passed but a State Department spokesperson explained that the U.S. had instead “advised the PLO Office to limit its activities to those related to achieving a lasting, comprehensive peace between the Israelis and Palestinians.”

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