Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a visit to a synagogue in Vilnius, Lithuania, August 26, 2018. Mindaugas Kulbis,AP

U.S. 'Made Right Decision' by Shuttering PLO Mission in D.C., Netanyahu Says

'Israel supports American actions that are meant to clarify to Palestinians that a refusal to negotiate will not promote peace,' prime minister's office says in statement

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu applauded the U.S. decision, announced Monday, to shutter the PLO mission in Washington.

"The United States made the right decision about the PLO mission in Washington," a statement posted on the Hebrew Facebook handle of the Prime Minister's Office read.

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"Israel supports American actions that are meant to clarify to the Palestinians that a refusal to negotiate and attempts to attack Israel at international forums will not promote peace," the statement added.

A State Department announcing the move was issued Monday, explaining that the administration made the move because "the PLO has not taken steps to advance the start of direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel."

The State Department said that the PLO leadership had instead "condemned a U.S. peace plan they have not yet seen and refused to engage with the U.S. government with respect to peace efforts and otherwise."

FILE PHOTO: The Washington office of the Palestinian Liberation Organization. Alex Brandon,AP

The statement added that the decision was "also consistent with Administration and Congressional concerns with Palestinian attempts to prompt an investigation of Israel by the International Criminal Court."

Michael Oren, a deputy minister in the Prime Minister's Office and a former ambassador to the U.S., also responded to the American decision to close the PLO office in Washington. 
"I thank all administration officials for standing strong by Israel's side facing attempts to boycott it and delegitimize it," Oren stated. 

"We saw in the past that giving presents to Palestinians only distances them from [peace] talks, therefore the Americans are punishing them in order to get them back to talks."

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MK Amir Ohana (Likud) also echoed statements in favor of the U.S. move, saying that his "I saw at trips to Washington how the 'ambassador' of the Palestinian Authority poisons politicians and policy leaders in America against Israel. The shuttering of the embassy joins a series of steps that prove that relations between the State of Israel and the U.S. have never been better."

In addition to the State Department announcement, Trump's National Security Adviser John Bolton said on Monday that the U.S. will shield Israel from any attempts to investigate its actions by the International Criminal Court. "While the Court welcomes the membership of the so-called 'State of Palestine,' it has threatened Israel—a liberal, democratic nation—with investigation into its actions to defend citizens from terrorist attacks in the West Bank and Gaza", Bolton said. 

Palestinians responded with rage to the announcement, which came after Trump decided to cut all aid to the UN agency helping Palestinian refugees— UNRWA— and later decided to significantly cut back aid to East Jerusalem hospitals in which Palestinians are treated.

The Palestinian representative in the United States, Dr. Husam Zomlot, currently in Ramallah after being called back to the West Bank several weeks ago, said: "Palestinian rights are not up for sale or negotiation. We will not be subject to blackmail and threats by the American administration."

Zomlot said that the Trump administration continues to implement Israeli demands as part of the U.S. policy to defend Israeli war crimes and crimes against humanity. He also said that the administration's move to close down the PLO's diplomatic mission in Washington proves that Israel is concerned about the shift in American public opinion toward the Palestinian issue.

"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. To this regard, we will take the necessary measures to protect the rights of our citizens living in the United States to access their consular services," Erakat added, reiterating the PLO's call for the ICC to open "its immediate investigation into Israeli crimes."

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