United States announces closure of Palestinian mission in Washington

The United States has announced the closure of the Palestine Liberation Organisation's (PLO) mission in Washington DC. Explaining the move, the US state department said that the PLO leaders had failed to engage with US efforts to bring about peace with Israel.

Sep 11, 2018 16:02 IST
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The United States on September 10, 2018 announced the closure of the Palestine Liberation Organisation's (PLO) mission in Washington DC.

Explaining the move, the US state department said that the PLO leaders had failed to engage with US efforts to bring about peace with Israel and attempted to prompt an investigation of Israel by the International Criminal Court.

The move is the latest in a series of measures by the Trump administration against the Palestinian leadership. The PLO, the internationally-recognised representative of the Palestinian people, opened the mission in 1994.

Key Reasons

The US State Department said that the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) office failed to take steps to advance the start of direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel.

A statement from the department read, “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.”

It added that the PLO leadership has condemned a US peace plan they have not yet seen and refused to engage with the US government with respect to peace efforts and otherwise. The department further blamed the Palestinians for being unwilling to negotiate.

Palestinian Reaction

Palestinian leaders described the US move of closing the Palestinian mission in Washington as a declaration of war on peace efforts by the administration of President Donald Trump.

PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat called the decision a "dangerous escalation." He added that this is yet another affirmation of the Trump administration's policy to collectively punish the Palestinian people.

The Palestinian Authority (PA) said that the move would allow Israel to continue their policies against the Palestinian people and land.

US – Palestinian Rift

  • The Palestinian leadership, which sees East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state, suspended contacts with the US after the nation recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in December 2017 and moved its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in May 2018.
  • The move was opposed by Palestinians and by many nations across the world including some of America’s closest allies. The Palestinians insisted that the status of the city is an issue to be negotiated between them and the Israelis.
  • Previously, the US had announced that it would cut more than $200m in economic aid for the Palestinians. The US had planned to give the Palestinians $251m for good governance, healthcare, education and funding for civil society in the current 2018 budget year that ends on September 30.
  • The US also pulled out its support for the UN agency responsible for 5 million Palestinian refugees. It also decided to cut more than $20m in foreign aid meant to support hospitals in East Jerusalem. The hospitals treat Palestinian patients who require cancer and eye treatments.

US’s close ties with Israel

  • The US gives Israel annual military aid of $3.1bn. In 2019, the figure will increase to $3.8bn under a 10-year deal agreed by Barack Obama shortly before he stepped down as president.
  • The Trump administration is also set to release its own peace plan to settle the Israel-Palestinian conflict. While the details of the plan are yet to be released, leaked reports suggest the following terms:
  • The Palestinians would initially control the Gaza Strip and less than half of the occupied West Bank, while a Palestinian capital would be created from villages surrounding Jerusalem.
  • The Israelis would retain security control over the Jordan valley and have total control over Palestinian travel between the West Bank and Gaza, while a corridor will be created between Palestinian territory and Jerusalem's holy sites.
  • The Palestinians would have to surrender the principle of the right of return of Palestinian refugees expelled during the creation of Israel.
  • On the other hand, the future of illegal Israeli settlements and the final border between Palestine and Israel would be decided at a later date.

What is PLO?

The PLO is an umbrella group that was created in 1964 to represent various Palestinian factions seeking self-determination.

The organisation is recognised as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people by over 100 states with which it holds diplomatic relations and has enjoyed observer status at the United Nations since 1974.

The PLO also runs the Palestinian Authority, the semi-autonomous, interim government that manages certain areas of the Palestinian territories.

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