The U.S. State Department announced on Monday that it will shut down the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s (PLO) office in Washington, D.C., saying the delegation had “not taken steps to advance the start of direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel.”
The statement also slammed the PLO for being critical of “a U.S. peace plan they have not yet seen” — one that is anticipated to be announced by President Donald Trump at the United Nations General Assembly in New York later this month.
“The United States continues to believe that direct negotiations between the two parties are the only way forward. This action should not be exploited by those who seek to act as spoilers to distract from the imperative of reaching a peace agreement,” said the statement.
ThinkProgress contacted the PLO’s office in D.C. for comment, but did not receive a response.
Of course, much has been left unsaid in the State Department statement: The United States is no longer seen as an impartial peace broker by Palestinians after President Trump decided to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, thereby unilaterally declaring the disputed territory the Jewish capital.
The Trump administration also condemned Palestinians for protesting at the Gaza “border” fence for several weeks earlier this year, and blamed them for getting shot by Israeli snipers in the deadliest escalation in the restive territory since the 2014 war.
Having already pulled out of two key U.N. bodies it considered too biased against Israel — UNESCO and the U.N. Human Rights Council — the Trump administration late last month announced it was cutting off funding to the UNRWA, the U.N. agency overseeing needs of over 5 million Palestinian refugees, recognizing only 10 percent of the current refugee numbers.
In doing so, the administration aimed to achieve two things: Redefine what it means to be a Palestinian refugee, while striking the Palestinian right to return from any future negotiations with Israel.
In a statement published on it website on Monday, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat responded to news of the closure:
“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,” read the statement.
“We reiterate that the rights of the Palestinian people are not for sale, that we will not succumb to US threats and bullying and that we will continue our legitimate struggle for freedom, justice, and independence, including by all political and legal means possible. Accordingly, we continue to call upon the International Criminal Court to open its immediate investigation into Israeli crimes,” said Erekat, in clear reference to another announced strategy by the Trump administration, one designed to delegitimize the International Criminal Court (ICC).
In a speech before the conservative Federalist Society in Washington on Monday, National Security Adviser John Bolton said the U.S. will “use any means necessary” to defend itself and its allies against what he said were the ICC’s “unjust prosecution”.
“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,” said Bolton.