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U.S. Revokes PLO Envoy’s Visas as Washington Mission Shuttered

Palestinian General Delegation head Husam Zomlot speaks in an interview with the Associated Press at the Washington office of the Palestine Liberation Organization, Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
AP/Andrew Harnik
DEBORAH DANAN

TEL AVIV – The Trump administration has revoked the visas of the Palestinian envoy to the U.S. and his family, days after shuttering the PLO mission in Washington.  

Husam Zomlot, head of the PLO General Delegation to the U.S., said his family left the country after being told that the expiration date of their visas, which were originally valid until 2020, would be brought forward to next month.

Zomlot himself was recalled to Ramallah in May in protest over President Donald Trump’s decision to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

The U.S. also froze all PLO-affiliated bank accounts.

Hanan Ashrawi, a senior member of the PLO’s executive committee, slammed the Trump administration as “vindictive.”

“As if the announcement that the U.S. would close our office in Washington, D.C. was not enough, this vindictive action by the Trump administration is spiteful,” Ashrawi said on Sunday. “The U.S. has taken its attempts to pressure and blackmail the Palestinians to a new level.”

“By deliberately targeting the family of Ambassador Zomlot, the US administration has gone from cruel punishment to revenge against the Palestinians and their leadership even to the point of causing hardship to their innocent children and families,” she added.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said last week that the PLO office was being closed because the Palestinians were not showing a willingness to negotiate 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.”

The Palestinian leadership condemned Trump for being an “enemy of peace” with officials reportedly saying that the shuttering of the PLO mission and other moves, including cutting aid, will encourage terror and violence.

“Ties between the PA and Trump have deteriorated to so unprecedented a nadir” that the PA is considering cutting all remaining contacts, PA officials were quoted by Israel’s Channel 10 as saying.

“Trump has become an enemy of the Palestinian people and an enemy of peace,” the officials said according to a translation by the Times of Israel. “The American president is encouraging terror and extremism with his policies that could lead to violence in the region, which will explode in the faces of Israel and the U.S.”

Apart from $42 million earmarked for security cooperation, the U.S. cut all aid to the Palestinians this year.

In a Rosh Hashanah greeting to Jewish leaders, Trump said he told the Palestinians that he wouldn’t give aid without a peace deal.

“I’d say, you’ll get money, but we’re not paying you until we make a deal. If we don’t make a deal, we’re not paying,” Trump said in the phone call.

The Palestinian leadership has so far rejected the plan sight unseen, describing it as a “conspiracy aimed at liquidating the Palestinian cause.”

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