The Palestine Liberation Organization office in Washington in November 2017. Photo: AFP/Saul Loeb
The Palestine Liberation Organization office in Washington in November 2017. Photo: AFP/Saul Loeb

The Palestine Liberation Organization mission in Washington faces imminent closure by the Trump administration, a top Palestinian official said Monday.

“We have been notified by a US official of their decision to close the Palestinian Mission to the US,” said chief negotiator Saeb Erekat.

“This dangerous escalation shows that the US 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,” he said in a statement.

The Wall Street Journal hours earlier published excerpts from the draft announcement to be made by Trump’s national security advisor John Bolton.

“The Trump administration will not keep the office open when the Palestinians refuse to start direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel,” Bolton is expected to say Monday.

Bolton is also expected to threaten US sanctions against the International Criminal Court if it moves forward with a probe of alleged Israeli war crimes.

Erekat, in his statement, said the Palestinians would press forward to get their case heard at the ICC.

Nothing in our back pocket

The mission closure is only the latest in a series of moves chipping away at traditional American support to the Palestinians.

The State Department on Aug. 31 severed all funding to UNRWA, the agency responsible for providing millions of Palestinian refugees with education and healthcare, saying it would examine other approaches. A week earlier, it cut $200 million in aid to the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

“It is ironic that the US is punishing the PLO, the national representative of the Palestinian people and the highest political body that made the commitment to reaching a political and legal settlement of the Palestinian question and that has engaged in negotiations with successive US administrations for decades,” PLO executive committee member Hanan Ashrawi said Monday.

President Trump upended decades of US policy last December when he recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, eliciting praise from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

In August, the American leader raised the prospect of Israeli concessions, telling a crowd of supporters that “in the negotiation, Israel will have to pay a higher price because they won a very big thing, but I took it off the table.”

That hint has since been quashed by US envoy to Israel David Friedman. In an interview with the Jerusalem Post last week, he said the Jerusalem recognition was never intended to gain concessions from Israeli leaders for a peace deal.

“There’s nothing we have in our back pocket that says, ‘Well, Israel, you’ve got to give up X, Y and Z because the embassy was moved,’” he told the newspaper. 

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