Saturday, December 16, 2017

US reverses plan to close PLO Washington office


By Rhiannon F. - November 28, 2017
TAGS:
Section: [Main News]
Tags: [Peace Process] [US foreign policy]

The US State Department has quietly taken back its decision to close the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) Washington office over the Thanksgiving weekend.

The PLO office was to be closed due to alleged Palestinian violation of the Anti Terrorism Act.

Under the law, there are two conditions for continued US support; no Palestinian call for Israel or its citizens to be tried in the International Criminal Court (ICC), as well as no PLO attempt to achieve UN member state status.

In September Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told the UN they had asked the ICC to open an investigation of Israeli officials regarding illegal settlements and aggressive use of force against Palestinians.

PLO Executive Committee Member Dr. Hanan Ashrawi believes the US administration are attempting to punish the people of Palestine for trying to hold Israel accountable through the ICC, she stated in a press release.

“It is ironic that the U.S. is taking steps to punish the victim (the occupied) and not the perpetrator of the crime (the occupier),” Dr. Ashrawi said.

It has long been a battle for the PLO to exist and function in the US, after the introduction of the Anti Terrorism Act in 1987, also making it illegal for the PLO to spend money and collect money from American citizens to serve their interests.

The US president reserves the right to waive the law for six months at a time, allowing the PLO office to function.

In a briefing to foreign media by Member of Fatah Central Council and official spokesperson, Dr. Nasser Al Qudwa said the last waiver was signed by US President Donald Trump in May.

The waiver ended on November 17, therefore automatically triggering the Anti Terrorism law, allowing the administration to call for the PLO office closure.

The US administration's threat aimed to pressure the PA into peace talks with Israel, declaring the office could reopen within 90 days without any of the restrictions currently in place if they enter “into direct [and] meaningful negotiations.”

Ironically, the action by the US resulted in the opposite, with the PA declaring they would cut any communication with the US, calling the threats “blackmail and coercion.”

The PLO further said the US actions would hinder any Middle East peace deal.

Dr Al Qudwa stated “the US president is determined to present a vision, a peace plan” for Israel and Palestine.

“At the same time, his assistants are very inclined to accept Israeli arguments, [so] it’s very difficult to imagine,” Dr Al Qudwa continued.

Dr. Ashrawi also added the US still hasn’t presented any peace initiative.

“Conditioning the renewal of the waiver on the Palestinians’ sticking to 'direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel’ is actually superfluous since negotiations are nonexistent,” she said. 

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