Jerusalem, Nov 19: Palestinian officials have warned that they will freeze all communication with the US, following steps by the Trump administration to close the Palestine Liberation Organisation’s (PLO) office in Washington, DC.
Senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said that the PLO had been informed by the US State Department of a decision not to renew the operating permission for the organisation’s diplomatic office in the American capital.
The State Department’s move was in response to the Palestinians’ decision to join the International Criminal Court (ICC), and to submit files for investigation of several Israeli war crimes, including settlements, against Palestinians, according to Erekat.
The senior PLO official said the organisation had sent a letter to the US government officially informing it that all communication lines with the Trump administration would be cut off if it followed through with the plan to shutter the office.
“This is very unfortunate and unacceptable. This is the pressure being exerted on this [US] administration by the [Benjamin] Netanyahu government while we are trying to achieve the ultimate deal,” said Erekat, adding such steps will “undermine the whole peace process”.
The PLO is seen by the international community, including the United Nations, as the representative of the Palestinian people.
Every six months, the State Department signs a waiver that allows the PLO office to remain open in Washington. The certification period for the current waiver ended this month.
A White House National Security Council (NSC) spokesperson said the move does not mean that the office will be permanently closed.
He added that US President Donald Trump now has 90 days to determine whether “Palestinians have entered into direct, meaningful negotiations with Israel”.
Since Trump was elected a little more than a year ago, he has made no progress on promises to forge a peace deal between Palestinian and Israeli officials.
Instead, illegal Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territories have expanded exponentially and, for the first time in two decades, a new Israeli settlement is being built in the West Bank.
Nabil Abu Rudeina, spokesman for the Palestinian presidency, said in a statement that the US measure aiming “to bring the closure of the PLO office represents an unprecedented step in the history of US-Palestinian relations”.