On Monday, the Trump Administration announced that the Palestine Liberation Organization's office in Washington, D.C. would be closed after the Palestinian government has repeatedly refused to participate in peace talks with Israel.
“The United States will always stand with our friend and ally, Israel. The Trump administration will not keep the office open when the Palestinians refuse to take steps to start direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel," said John Bolton, the U.S. National Security Adviser during a speech he made to the Federalist Society. "The United States supports a direct and robust peace process, and we will not allow the ICC (International Criminal Court), or any other organization, to constrain Israel’s right to self-defense.”
The U.S. maintains that direct negotiations are the only way to achieve peace and put the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to an end.
“The United States continues to believe that direct negotiations between the two parties are the only way forward,” said Heather Nauert, a spokeswoman for the U.S. State Department on Monday. “This action should not be exploited by those who seek to act as spoilers to distract from the imperative of reaching a peace agreement. We are not retreating from our efforts to achieve a lasting and comprehensive peace.”
Now, the U.S. government is making it clear that it does not condone Palestinian leaders from not only refraining from peace talks but for trying to get the international court to prosecute Israel for war crimes.
“While the court welcomes the membership of the so-called State of Palestine, it has threatened Israel—a liberal, democratic nation—with investigation into its actions to defend citizens from terrorist attacks in the West Bank and Gaza,” said Bolton. “There has also been a suggestion that the ICC will investigate Israeli construction of housing projects on the West Bank.”
The Palestinian leadership responded with rage to the Trump Administration's decision and said that the PLO will not be bullied by the U.S.
"We have been notified by a US official of their decision to close the Palestinian Mission to the US. 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," said Saeb Erekat, a Senior Palestinian diplomat. "We reiterate that the rights of the Palestinian people are not for sale, that we will not succumb to US threats and bullying. Accordingly, we continue to call upon the International Criminal Court to open its immediate investigation into Israeli crimes."
Majed Faraj, the head of Palestinian Intelligence made an unusual public statement also condemning the closing of the U.S.-based PLO office.
"The American and Israeli attempt to harm the Palestinian people's rights will fail against the just Palestinian position," said Faraj. "Our rights and our land are solid foundations despite all the machinations against the Palestinian people during the past few years."
The Palestinian Authority (PA) went as far as to say that the move was a declaration of war" on peace efforts by the Trump administration.
Tensions between Palestinians and Isreal have continued to escalate after the White House made the decision to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
When the embassy opened, there was a bloody protest where over 60 Palestinians died. Tens of thousands of protesters gathered at the Gaza border where violence erupted as they threw rocks and set fires.
Israel said that the casualties were in its attempt to protect its border.
The U.S. remains loyal to its ally Israel and Bolton also said that the government isn't afraid to take the sanctions further.
“If the court comes after us, Israel or other allies, we will not sit quietly,” said Bolton. “We will sanction their funds in the U.S. financial system, and we will prosecute them in the U.S. criminal system.”
The announcement to close the PLO office comes after the White House said that it was cutting $25 million in funding for health services for Palestinians in East Jerusalem over the weekend.
Author's note: This is another Trump negotiating tactic. Since the Palestinians are refusing to come to the negotiating table, Trump is taking more things away little by little to push them to finally agree to peace talks.