WASHINGTON - The Trump administration will announce on Monday that it is shutting down the PLO diplomatic delegation in Washington, according to a report published in the Wall Street Journal.
The report stated that Trump’s National Security Adviser, John Bolton, will announce the decision in a speech on Monday.
According to the report, Bolton will say that the administration is shutting down the office - which has been active in Washington for more than two decades - because the Palestinian Authority is refusing Trump’s pressure to enter into American-led negotiations.
Palestinian negotiator and PLO Executive secretary general Saeb Erekat confirmed the report in a statement: "We have been notified by a U.S. official of their decision to close the Palestinian Mission to the U.S.," he said.
"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," the statement continued.
The Palestinians claim that the Trump administration is biased against them and has fully adopted Israel’s positions, and are saying they will only negotiate under the mediation of a broader international forum.
The report also stated that Bolton will threaten to take actions against the International Criminal Court in The Hague if it moves ahead with investigations focused on Israel’s actions in Gaza. Bolton will also threaten to ban ICC judges from entering the United States and to sanction their funds in American financial institutions, if the court acts against the United States.
In his statement on the shutting down the PLO diplomatic delegation Erekat reiterated the PLO's call for the ICC to open "its immediate investigation into Israeli crimes."
"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 statement read.
The Palestinian representative in the United States, Dr. Husam Zomlot, said: "Palestinian rights are not up for sale or negotiation. We will not be subject to blackmail and threats by the American administration."
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Last year, the Trump administration threatened to shut down the PLO delegation, stating that American law requires to have meaningful Israeli-Palestinian negotiations in order to allow the delegation to continue its operations. Back then, however, negotiations between the U.S. and the Palestinian Authority were still ongoing, and so the administration managed to postpone any decision on the matter.
Ever since December, when Trump announced that he will move the American embassy in Israel to Jerusalem and recognize the city as Israel’s capital, the Palestinians have stopped communicating with the Trump administration. They have said that the administration cannot be accepted as an “honest broker” because of its bias towards Israel.
In addition, as Haaretz reported over the weekend, the administration has also decided to cut more than $20 million in foreign aid meant to support hospitals in East Jerusalem. The decision will hurt Palestinian patients who require cancer treatments and eye treatments, including children. Trump said over the weekend that he has decided not to give any more aid money to the Palestinians as a way to pressure them into American-led negotiations.
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