TEL AVIV – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday hailed President Donald Trump for his “correct” decision to shutter the Palestine Liberation Organization’s office in Washington, citing the Palestinians’ refusal to advance peace.
“The U.S. took the correct decision,” Netanyahu said in a statement. “Israel supports these actions that are meant to make it clear to the Palestinians that refusing to negotiate and attacking Israel in international forums will not bring about peace.”
Deputy Minister Michael Oren, who served as Israel’s ambassador to Washington, also praised the move.
“With the closing of the PLO office in Washington, the American administration is not changing the rules of the game, but simply restoring them after years of neglect,” Oren said.
One example of this, Oren stated, was the frequent violation by the Palestinians of the Oslo Accords article that bans them from seeking recognition of a Palestinian state outside negotiations with Israel.
“It should be noted that in contrast to previous administrations that would reward the Palestinians for abandoning the negotiations with Israel, President Trump is forcing the Palestinians to pay a price,” Oren said. “As we have seen in the past — giving gifts to the Palestinians only keeps them away from the peace talks, and now the Americans are punishing them in order to make them return to the table.”
Earlier Tuesday, the Palestinian envoy to Washington Husam Zomlot and his staffers were ordered to pack up the mission within the month.
“We lost the U.S. administration but we gained our national rights,” said Zomlot.
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert on Tuesday stated that the PLO office was being closed because the Palestinians were not showing a willingness to make peace.
“We have permitted the PLO office to conduct operations that support the objective of achieving a lasting, comprehensive peace between Israelis and the Palestinians since the expiration of a previous waiver in November 2017,” said Nauert.
“However, the PLO has not taken steps to advance the start of direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel. … To the contrary, 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. As such, and reflecting congressional concerns, the administration has decided that the PLO office in Washington will close at this point.”
She added, “The United States continues to believe that direct negotiations between the two parties are the only way forward. … This action should not be exploited by those who seek to act as spoilers to distract from the imperative of reaching a peace agreement. We are not retreating from our efforts to achieve a lasting and comprehensive peace.”
According to Nauert, the move was also in response to Palestinian attempts to urge the International Criminal Court in the Hague to investigate Israel.
The Israeli Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement, “The Palestinian’s appeal to the ICC and their rejection of negotiations with Israel and the U.S. are not the way to achieve peace, and it is good that the U.S. is taking a clear stance in the matter.”
Other Israeli officials also praised the decision to shutter the Washington mission.
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein (Likud) said the PLO mission was only good at spreading hatred and incitement and made no effort to advance peace.
Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel (Jewish Home) called the measure a “New Year’s gift” to Israel and the Jewish people.
Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the PLO Executive Committee, slammed the move as “extremely cruel” and “spiteful.”
Joint List MK Ahmad Tibi said it was “an act of revenge against the Palestinian people” by Trump.