Washington to shut­ter Pales­tinian U.S. mis­sion

Calgary Herald - - WORLD - Matthew Lee anD SuSannah Ge­orGe

•TheTrump ad­min­is­tra­tion or­dered the clo­sure of the Pales­tinian diplo­matic mis­sion in Washington on Mon­day and threat­ened sanc­tions against the In­ter­na­tional Crim­i­nal Court if it pur­sues in­ves­ti­ga­tions against the U.S., Is­rael, or other al­lies. The moves are likely to harden Pales­tinian re­sis­tance to the U.S. role as a peace bro­ker.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion cited the re­fusal of Pales­tinian lead­ers to en­ter into peace talks with Is­rael as the rea­son for clos­ing the Pales­tine Lib­er­a­tion Or­ga­ni­za­tion of­fice, although the U.S. has yet to present its plan to re­solve the Is­rael-Pales­tinian con­flict. The Pales­tini­ans ac­cused the ad­min­is­tra­tion of dis­man­tling decades of U.S. en­gage­ment with them.

Shortly af­ter the State Depart­ment an­nounce­ment, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser, John Bolton, launched a broad­side against The Hague-based In­ter­na­tional Crim­i­nal Court. Bolton de­clared that the ICC “is al­ready dead” to the U.S. He also threat­ened the court and its staff with sanc­tions if it pro­ceeds with in­ves­ti­ga­tions into al­leged war crimes by Amer­i­can troops in Afghanistan.

The clo­sure of the PLO of­fice — the lat­est in a se­ries of moves tar­get­ing the Pales­tini­ans — was cen­tred on the fact that no “di­rect and mean­ing­ful ne­go­ti­a­tions with Is­rael” are un­der­way de­spite previous warn­ings, the State Depart­ment said. It said the de­ci­sion was also in line with U.S. law, a re­flec­tion of con­gres­sional con­cerns and con­sis­tent with U.S. pol­icy to op­pose and pun­ish Pales­tinian at­tempts to bring Is­rael be­fore the ICC.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion had told the Pales­tini­ans last year that clo­sure was pos­si­ble un­less they agreed to sit down with the Is­raelis. It has yet to re­lease its own much­vaunted but largely un­known peace plan although it said it still in­tends to do so.

Pales­tinian of­fi­cial Saeb Erekat said the move was “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.”

Although the U.S. does not rec­og­nize Pales­tinian state­hood, the PLO has main­tained in Washington a gen­eral del­e­ga­tion of­fice that fa­cil­i­tates Pales­tinian of­fi­cials’ in­ter­ac­tions with the U.S. gov­ern­ment.

The clo­sure was just the lat­est move the ad­min­is­tra­tion has taken against the Pales­tini­ans and in favour of Is­rael. Just last month, it can­celled more than US$200 mil­lion in aid for projects in the West Bank and Gaza as well as the re­main­der of its planned as­sis­tance for the UN agency that helps Pales­tinian refugees. Over the week­end, it an­nounced it would cut US$25 mil­lion in as­sis­tance for hos­pi­tals in east Jerusalem that pro­vide crit­i­cal care to Pales­tini­ans.

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