The Trump administration is ordering the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) to shutter its Washington, D.C., office in a bid to increase pressure on Palestinian leadership amid stalled peace talks.
“We have been notified by a US official of their decision to close the Palestinian mission to the US,” PLO Secretary General Saeb Erekat said in a statement Monday, according to Al-Jazeera.
The State Department confirmed the move Monday.
“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,” the State Department said in a statement. “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,” the statement continued. “As such, and reflecting Congressional concerns, the Administration has decided that the PLO office in Washington will close at this point.”
National Security Advisor John Bolton is expected to talk about the closure in a speech to the conservative Federalist Society on Monday.
“The Trump administration will not keep the office open when the Palestinians refuse to take steps to start direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel,” Bolton is expected to say, according to a draft copy of his prepared remarks reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.
“The United States will always stand with our friend and ally, Israel,” Bolton will add.
The closure of the PLO’s Washington office would be the latest in a series of punitive measures the Trump administration has taken against Palestinian leadership while the White House develops its yet-to-be-revealed peace plan.
Under President Donald Trump, Washington has sought to slash financial support for Palestinian organizations, arguing that U.S. aid rewards corrupt and intransigent behavior on the part of Palestinian leadership.
Monday’s announcement comes weeks after Washington said it would cancel over $200 million in direct assistance to the West Bank and Gaza. The Trump administration has also decided to withdraw all U.S. funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, which administers aid programs for Palestinian refugees and their descendants.
The decision to shut down the PLO office in Washington was prompted in part by the organization’s support for prosecution of Israeli leaders in the International Criminal Court (ICC), according to Bolton’s prepared remarks. The Trump administration in 2017 warned that it might close the office after Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called for the investigation and trial of Israeli leaders in the ICC and other international legal bodies.
The U.S. is not party to the treaty that created the ICC and has long rejected its jurisdiction over American citizens. In his Federalist Society speech, entitled “Protecting American Constitutionalism and Sovereignty from International Threats,” Bolton is expected to vow that the U.S. will use “any means necessary” to shield American citizens and friendly allies from ICC prosecutions.
Bolton’s speech will lay out possible punitive action against any nation that cooperates with ICC investigations of the U.S. and its allies, including cuts to foreign aid and military assistance. Bolton is further expected to threaten economic sanctions against the ICC itself.