Palestinians freeze ties with US

Frederick Owens
November 22, 2017

The Palestinians have frozen all meetings with the United States after it chose to close their representative office in Washington, D.C., officials said Tuesday.

Following the initial U.S. announcement about the closure of the PLO office in Washington, the Israeli prime minister's office issued a statement saying, "we respect the decision and look forward to continuing to work with the United States to advance peace and security in the region".

Last week, the State Department declined to renew the permit for the office operated by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in Washington. It could also antagonize the Trump administration and result in cancellation of USA aide to the Palestinians.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson determined that the Palestinians crossed that line in September, when Palestinian Authority (PA) head Mahmoud Abbas called on the court to investigate and prosecute Israelis, according to State Department officials. If Trump determines they are, then the mission can reopen.

Husam Zomlot, the PLO envoy to Washington, speaks to reporters in Washington, DC, Aug. 17, 2017.

The threat to close the office could be a point of leverage for the U.S., as the Trump administration seeks to engage the Palestinians in peace talks with Israel.

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Malki added that if the United States wanted to review the decision to shut the office in DC, it would also have to review all the laws passed by Congress that treat the PLO as a terrorist organization and "disrespect relations between the two countries". Still, a waiver would have to be signed every six months.

The "national security interest" excuse would no longer suffice.

Congress added a provision to the law in 2015 requiring the shuttering of the mission if the Palestinians seek to "influence a determination by the ICC to initiate a judicially authorized investigation, or to actively support such an investigation, that subjects Israeli nationals to an investigation for alleged crimes against Palestinians".

The Trump administration began to reconsider the move following threats by the Palestinian Authority's leadership that Ramallah would cut its ties with Washington, Maliki told the official Voice of Palestine radio station.

"The upcoming stage is crucial and a chance to correct the Palestinian-American relations", he said, adding the Palestinian decision "was made in response to the unaccepted American measures".

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