The Trump administration plans to announce the closure of the Palestinian mission in Washington in response to the Palestinian Authority’s refusal to enter peace negotiations, according to multiple reports on Monday.
A senior Palestinian official confirmed the U.S. would close its de facto embassy in the capital, a move first reported by the Wall Street Journal.
“We have been notified by a US official of their decision to close the Palestinian mission to the US,” Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) secretary-general Saeb Erekat (pictured) said in a statement.
“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.”
Just last June, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Attorney General Jeff Sessions were urged by lawmakers to close the diplomatic outlet, 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.”
AFP reports under longstanding U.S. law, permission for the PLO to maintain its mission in Washington must be renewed every six months.
The White House had not yet commented, but reports indicate U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton is due to announce the closure in a speech later Monday.
“The Trump administration will not keep the office open when the Palestinians refuse to start direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel,” Mr. Bolton is expected to say, according to the Wall Street Journal.
He is also set to threaten the Hague-based International Criminal Court with sanctions if it investigates the U.S. and Israel, the WSJ reported.
The Palestinian leadership ended contact with the current administration after President Trump recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December.
The Palestinians see eastern Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.
This is despite the fact some of Judaism’s holiest sites are located in the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem, including the Temple Mount and Western Wall in Jerusalem; the Tomb of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs in Hebron; and Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus.
In recent weeks, the United States has cut more than $200 million in bilateral aid to the Palestinians as well as cancelled its support for the UN agency for so-called Palestinian “refugees”.
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