By Prarthana Mitra
The Trump administration on Monday decided to close the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) office in Washington, expressing dissatisfaction with the “steps to advance the start of direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel.”
While PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat called the decision a “dangerous escalation,” it comes in the wake of a prolonged period of animosity between the West Bank and the US, which has suspended nearly $200 million aid to Palestine and recognised Jerusalem as the Israeli capital. “This is 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,” he said in a statement.
What happened last year
Palestine had withdrawn negotiations over peace with Israel, brokered by the US, earlier last year, following trump’s announcement to shift the US embassy to Jerusalem.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, in a speech at the UN last year, called on the ICC to investigate and prosecute Israeli citizens for alleged crimes against Palestinians, which provoked the Trump administration move for a closure of the office in November 2017. The project was quickly abandoned, save for imposing a few temporary restrictions.
Problems with the ICC
Defending their recent move as “consistent with” concerns about the investigation by the International Criminal Court (ICC), the State Department is fighting tooth and nail to resist investigation by the ICC, Trump administration’s third strike this year against international cooperation with the UN. The US has already withdrawn from the U.N. human rights body and threatened to pull out of the World Trade Organization, besides pulling all support for the UN agency responsible for 5 million Palestinian refugees.
Erekat told Washington Post, “These people have decided to stand on the wrong side of history by protecting war criminals and destroying the two-state solution…I told them if you are worried about courts, you should stop aiding and abetting crimes.” Other Palestinian officials have also harshly criticised these bullying tactics and “collective punishment” of the Palestinian people.
According to media reports, Israel is not interested in a two-state solution as Jewish settlement building continues in the occupied West Bank.
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius.