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The United States will close the headquarters of the Organization for the Liberation of Palestine (PLO) in Washington, according to the State Department.
The justification given in a statement by spokeswoman Heather Nauert was that the PLO leaders did not commit themselves to the efforts of the United States to achieve peace with Israel and tried to promote an investigation into that country by the International Criminal Court (ICC).
A senior Palestinian official called the decision a “reckless escalation.”
The PLO, an internationally recognized representative of the Palestinian people, opened its mission in Washington in 1994.
Donald Trump is preparing to announce an anticipated peace plan in the Middle East, but Palestinian officials refused to meet with the president’s team since he, in a controversial decision, recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in December.
Why are they closing the Palestinian mission?
“The PLO has not taken steps to advance the start of direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel,” the State Department said Monday.
“On the contrary, the PLO leaders have condemned the US peace plan without having seen it yet and have refused to get involved with the US government regarding the peace efforts.”
The statement also cited Palestinian efforts for the ICC to prosecute Israelis for alleged violations of international laws and regulations regarding the treatment of people and property in the occupied West Bank and Gaza.
Last year, the State Department warned the PLO mission in Washington that, under US law, they faced closure if Palestinian leaders maintained their position in the ICC.
In May, the Palestinian foreign minister formally requested the chief prosecutor of the ICC to initiate a full investigation alleging that there was “extensive and insurmountable evidence”.
Israel – which like the United States has never ratified the founding treaty of the court, the Rome Statute – described the measure as a “cynical step without legal validity”.
How did the Palestinians respond?
In a statement issued when the US measure appeared imminent, PLO Secretary General Saeb Erekat said: “This reckless escalation shows that the United States is willing to dissolve the international system to protect Israeli crimes and attacks on the land. and the people of Palestine, as well as against the peace and security of the rest of our region. “
“We reiterate that the rights of the Palestinian people are not for sale, that we will not succumb to the threats and harassment of the United States and that we will continue our legitimate struggle for freedom, justice and independence, including by all political and legal means. possible. “
Erekat insisted that the Palestinians would continue to ask the ICC to open a full investigation.
There was no immediate response from the Israeli government.
What other steps has the United States taken?
On Saturday, a State Department official said that after a review, President Trump had ordered that the $ 25 million allocated for the care of Palestinians in six hospitals in East Jerusalem “go to other high priority projects in other places”.
The head of the East Jerusalem Hospital Network warned on Monday that the decision to cut funds “endangered the health of five million Palestinians.”
The hospitals offer health services to Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza that the Palestinian Ministry of Health can not provide, such as cancer care, cardiac and ocular surgery, neonatal intensive care and dialysis for children.
Two weeks ago, the United States said it was ending hundreds of millions of dollars in funding for the UN agency that provides assistance to five million Palestinian refugees in the Middle East.
The US government claimed that the UN Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) was an “irretrievably failed operation” whose “constant and growing community of demanding beneficiaries is simply unsustainable.”
The agency rejected the allegations saying that it provided vital services and it was the duty of all involved to reach a peace agreement that would solve the refugee problem.