“We have been notified by a US official of their decision to close the Palestinian mission in the US.
This is yet another affirmation of the Trump administration’s policy to collectively punish the Palestinian people, namely by cutting financial support for humanitarian services, health and education,” Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Secretary General Saeb Erekat said in a statement on Monday.
He added, “This dangerous escalation shows that the United States 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 region.”
Erekat further noted that “the rights of the Palestinian people are not for sale [and] ... we will not give in to US threats and bullying. We will continue our legitimate struggle for freedom, justice, and independence by all possible political and legal means. We continue to call upon the International Criminal Court to launch an immediate investigation into Israeli crimes.”
The PLO secretary general also called on the international community to react to the US move.
“Lowering the flag of Palestine in Washington DC means much more than a new slap by the Trump administration against peace and justice. It symbolizes the US attacks against the international system as a whole, including the Paris Convention, UNESCO and the Human Rights Council among others,” Erekat pointed out.
Meanwhile, Hanan Ashrawi, a member of PLO Executive Committee, has condemned the US decision to close the Palestinian mission in Washington as an irresponsible move.
“It is ironic that the US is punishing the PLO, the national representative of the Palestinian people and the highest political body that has committed itself to settling the Palestinian issue politically and legally and has engaged in negotiations with successive US administrations for decades,” she said in a statement.
“It is also extremely cruel and spiteful to insist on pressing Palestinian people by depriving them of their rights, giving away their lands plus al-Quds as their lawful capital, defunding UNRWA (the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East) and Palestinian institutions, including East al-Quds hospitals,” Ashrawi said.
She stressed, “Such irresponsible moves are clear proof of American collusion with Israel's occupation… They encourage Israel to simply ignore the need for peace on the basis of international law and respect for human rights."
“The US better come to the terms that Palestinians will not surrender and that coercion or unwarranted collective punitive measures will not succeed in bringing the Palestinian leadership or people to their knees. Such policies are a matter of concern worldwide as they attest [to the fact] that the US has joined Israel in blatantly violating the will of the international community and creating conditions for disorder and instability throughout the Middle East region and beyond.”
According to a report by the Wall Street Journal during a speech to the conservative group Federalist Society on Monday, US National Security Adviser John Bolton was expected to say that the administration of US President Donald Trump would shutter the Palestine Liberation Organization’s office in Washington.
According to a report, Bolton was expected to say “The United States will always stand with our friend and ally, Israel,” adding, “The Trump administration will not keep the office open when the Palestinians refuse to take steps to start direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel."
Later on Monday, the US State Department confirmed that it was ordering the closure of the Washington mission of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, alleging that the Palestinians “were not supporting peace talks with Israel,” AFP reported.
"We have permitted the PLO office to conduct operations that support the objective of achieving a lasting, comprehensive peace between Israelis and the Palestinians since the expiration of a previous waiver in November 2017," said State Department spokeswoman, Heather Nauert, who added, "However, the PLO has not taken steps to advance the start of direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel."