Saeb Erekat, secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organization, speaks to journalists in the West Bank city of Ramallah on September 1, 2018. AFP

Palestinian Officials: U.S. Closing PLO Mission Is 'Vicious Blackmail'

Palestinian representative in U.S. says Trump's move is part of effort to 'protect Israeli crimes and attacks against the land and people of Palestine' ■ J Street condemns move for 'sabotaging' Israeli-Palestinian peace process

Palestinian officials responded with rage to the Trump administration's announcement that it is shutting down the PLO diplomatic mission in Washington.

>> U.S. Announces Closure of Palestinian Diplomatic Mission Over ‘Refusal to Engage With Peace Efforts’

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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Palestinian negotiator and PLO Executive secretary general Dr. Saeb Erekat said that "this dangerous escalation shows that the U.S. is willing to disband the international system in order to protect Israeli crimes and attacks against the land and people of Palestine as well as against peace and security in the rest of our region."

The head of Palestinian intelligence, Majed Faraj, also referred to the decision to close the PLO offices in the United States in an unusual public statement. "The American and Israeli attempt to harm the Palestinian people's rights will fail against the just Palestinian position."

He continued: "Our rights and our land are solid foundations despite all the machinations against the Palestinian people during the past few years," he said.

PLO Executive Committee Member Dr. Hanan Ashrawi responded to the report, saying that "it is extremely cruel and spiteful to persist in deliberately bashing the Palestinian people by denying them of their rights, giving away their lands and rightful capital of Jerusalem, and defunding UNRWA and Palestinian institutions, including East Jerusalem hospitals."

She added that "this form of crude and vicious blackmail once again seeks to punish the Palestinian people as a whole who are already victims of the ruthless Israeli military occupation. Such irresponsible moves are clear proof of American collusion with Israel’s occupation and the rewards, inducements and incentives it provides Israel, as well as a total ignorance of the requirements of a just peace based on international law and respect for human rights."

Israeli-Arab lawmaker MK Aida Touma-Sliman (Joint List) said in response that "the United States administration is trying to force the 'deal of the century' on the Palestinian people and is starting to implement it. By closing the PLO offices Trump is trying to force the Palestinian leadership into surrender and to squeeze its compliance into a negotiation under the conditions the administration has set."

"The Palestinian people has never put its hopes into any American administration and will not agree to allow Trump to set its destiny, these steps will only cause more mayham. The international community must stand up against such agressive steps."

The left-wing lobby group J Street condemned the decision in a statement, commeting on the fact the declaration came as "American Jews, who overwhelmingly support a two-state solution, are observing Rosh Hashanah in their homes and communities."

The statement said the move would choke off "bilateral and multilateral assistance benefiting Palestinians in dire need of clean water, medicine and education," and slammed the Trump administration for "kicking the legs out from under any possible negotiating table." 

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