On September 10th, the Trump administration announced the closing of the headquarters of the Palestine Liberation Organization in Washington.
The Palestinian mission ceased operation on September 13th, expressing hope that the closure would be short. On September 10th, US State Department ordered the closing of the office, following a notification by the Trump Administration in 2017 which threatened the closure if the Palestinians do not enter what the administration described as serious peace talks with Israel. For their failure to achieve that, their mission has been closed.
“The Administration has determined after careful review that the office of the General Delegation of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in Washington should close,” State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert announced in a press release on September 10th.
On September 16th, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) said the staff had been given until October 13 to finish moving out.
This is one of the latest escalations in the deteriorating relationship between the Palestinians and Trump, who has recently increased US support of Israel exponentially. The Palestinians cut off contact with Washington, after the US President recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December 2017.
“Today is the deadline” for closure, Husam Zomlot, who headed the Palestine Liberation Organization mission, said in a Facebook video addressed to “the great people of America.” As reported by Times of Israel, the closure came on the 25th anniversary of the Oslo accords, the first agreements between the rival Israelis and Palestinians which promised to end decades of deadly conflict. On September 13th, Zomlot denounced the “unfortunate and vindictive” US move to close the Palestinian mission.
“It was unsurprising to us the Trump administration gave us only two choices: either we lose our relationship with the administration or we lose our rights as a nation,” he said.
“Our president, leadership and the people of Palestine opted for our rights.” Zomlot said the Palestinians were “extremely saddened by the current state of affairs.”
This comes after the US confirmed additional cuts in aid to Palestinians, on top of the ones ordered in August. The latest cuts come from $10 million in programmes on reconciliation involving Palestinians as well as Jewish and Arab Israelis. The portion of the money involving Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip was being redirected to programmes between Jewish and Arab Israelis, a US embassy official said.
These cuts follow a redirection of more than $200 million. “As announced in August, the administration redirected more than $200 million that was originally planned for programmes in the West Bank and Gaza,” a US embassy official said, cited by Eye Witness News. The official said the portion involving Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza would be used “to enhance” programmes in Israel instead.
On September 16th, Al Jazeera also reported that the US has decided to freeze all bank accounts belonging to the PLO in the country. The Palestinian Ambassador to the US Husam Zomlot also said on Sunday that his permit to stay in the US has been annulled, his families’ bank accounts have been closed and that he and his family have been requested by authorities to immediately leave the country. “The US administration also revoked the visas of Ambassador Husam Zomlot’s wife and two children despite their being valid until 2020,” a statement released on the same day by the PLO said.
“Ambassador Zomlot’s son Said, 7, who is in second grade, and daughter Alma, 5, who is in kindergarten were pulled out of Horace Mann Elementary School in Washington DC last week and have since left the country,” the statement continued.
PLO Executive Committee Member Dr. Hanan Ashrawi condemned the US decision. “As if the announcement that the US would close our office in Washington DC was not enough, this vindictive action by the Trump administration is spiteful. The US has taken its attempts to pressure and blackmail the Palestinians to a new level,” she said.
“By deliberately targeting the family of Ambassador Zomlot, the US administration has gone from cruel punishment to revenge against the Palestinians and their leadership even to the point of causing hardship to their innocent children and families,” she added.
Germany also reacted to the news of the closing of the diplomatic mission. On September 14th, Germany’s Foreign Ministry said that the US decision could complicate trying to get Palestinians and Israelis back to the table to talk about a two-state solution in the Middle East.
Times of Israel cited spokeswoman Maria Adebahr told reporters that the decision is a bilateral issue, but the Foreign Ministry fears it could complicate “the resumption of talks for a two-state solution.”
According to Times of Israel, the decision to close the Palestinian mission is due to Palestinian leaders allegedly breached the arrangement by calling for Israeli officials to be prosecuted at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
The ICC was involved after Israel announced its demolition of a Palestinian Bedouin village, which according to Palestinian officials was a war crime. He said the Trump administration would “fight back” and impose sanctions – even seeking to criminally prosecute ICC officials – if the court formally proceeded with opening an investigation into alleged war crimes committed by US military and intelligence staff during the war in Afghanistan or pursued any investigation into Israel or other US allies.
It is apparent that the Trump Administration and Donald Trump himself are heavily biased towards Israel and completely support it in all its actions in the Middle East and mostly in Gaza and the West Bank.