PLO Office Closed – Trump Gets Tough With Stubborn Palestinians For Poking Strategic Ally Israel

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Sep 11 2018
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President Trump, after being provoked and threatened, had sent aircraft carriers to North Korea and started trade war with China. Did PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization) really think they were so special and powerful that Trump’s no-nonsense approach to politics and commerce would surrender to their empty threats?


Last month, the Palestinian lost US$230 million in bilateral aid after Trump administration decided to cut the funding (which was used to encourage terrorism). That was the punishment for its refusal to cooperate with the United States’ efforts to jump-start Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, after Donald Trump moved the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem in May this year.


On Monday (10 September), the POTUS went a step further – ordered the closure of the Palestinian diplomatic mission in Washington. The U.S. State Department said the action was taken because the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) office “has not taken steps to advance the start of direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel”.

PLO Palestine Liberation Organization Office in Washington

US Department of State - Closure of PLO Office in Washington - Statement

The official statement said – “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.” However, the PLO has instead “condemned a yet-to-be-seen U.S. peace plan and refused to engage with the U.S. government with respect to peace efforts and otherwise.”


In response, the PLO, whom had condemned the U.S. decision last month in cutting the US$230 million aid as “the use of cheap blackmail as a political tool, has now accused Trump’s latest move as a “declaration of war on efforts to bring peace to our country and the region.” But the Palestinians have no one to blame but themselves.


The Palestinians, which sees East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state, has suspended contacts with the U.S., after Washington recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The Palestinians insist the status of the city is an issue to be negotiated between them and the Israelis. Sure, what can possibly go wrong by taking such a strong stance against Trump?

US Embassy in Jerusalem Israel - Ivanka Trump

The primary reason that triggered Trump administration to close the PLO office in Washington was not really the Palestinians’ stubbornness in refusing to sit down for the peace talk. It was because the Palestinians were trying to bring Israel before the ICC (International Criminal Court). Clearly, they have had underestimated the close relationship between U.S. and Israel.


Shortly after the announcement of the closure of PLO office, President Donald Trump’s National Security Adviser, John Bolton, launched an attack against The Hague-based International Criminal Court. Yes, not only the tough Trump closed the Palestinian office, the White House also threatened the ICC with sanctions if it carries out investigations into the U.S. and Israel.


Mr. Bolton said – “The United States will use any means necessary to protect our citizens and those of our allies from unjust prosecution by this illegitimate court. We will not cooperate with the ICC. We will provide no assistance to the ICC. We will not join the ICC. We will let the ICC die on its own. After all, for all intents and purposes, the ICC is already dead to us.”

ICC International Criminal Court

Bolton also declares that the U.S. would “not sit quietly” if the ICC started investigating the U.S., Israel or other U.S. allies. He said ICC judges and prosecutors would be banned from stepping on American soil, their assets in U.S. jurisdictions would be frozen and they would face prosecution. Similar measures would be taken against any company or state that assists an ICC investigation of Americans.


The PLO office essentially functions as an embassy but does not officially represent “Palestine,” as the United States does not recognize a Palestinian state. Critics said the confrontation displayed by Trump administration was architected by Israel from the beginning – a plan which systematically tears piece by piece the Palestinians’ existence.


Starting with recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, the U.S. then put a limit to the number of refugees and subsequently stopping the US$230 million funding for UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency) and finally shutting down the Palestinians official representation in the U.S. Last week, Washington said it would withdraw US$25 million in support from hospitals in East Jerusalem.


The United States is not a member of the ICC but cooperated with the court under the previous Obama administration. Israel is also not a member. Therefore, President Trump can easily threaten the International Criminal Court while at the same time treats the PLO as a pariah and terrorist organization. This year alone, Trump has left the UN Human Rights Council and even threatened to pull out of the WTO.


So, what’s next for PLO? A representative from the PLO may be housed by an Arab embassy in the U.S. to continue to offer consular service, operating the same way it did before the PLO had an official office in Washington. In other words, Trump has thrown the PLO back to the Dark Age in the mid-1990s. The PLO, of course, can eat humble pie and be a good boy and go back to negotiation table.


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