WASHINGTON – The US government announced on Monday the closure of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s office in Washington, accusing the organization of not taking steps to resume “direct and meaningful” negotiations with Israel.
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said that the US action came after a review of the PLO office focusing on the fact that the Palestinians are not pursuing any talks with Israel to resolve their mutual disagreements.
“To the contrary, PLO leadership has condemned a U.S. peace plan they have not yet seen and refused to engage with the U.S. government with respect to peace efforts and otherwise,” Nauert said, referring to the Trump administration’s promised peace plan, which has not yet been enunciated.
She added that “As such, and reflecting congressional concerns, the administration has decided that the PLO office in Washington will close at this point.”
“The United States continues to believe that direct negotiations between the two parties are the only way forward,” Nauert said.
“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,” she added.
Meanwhile, National Security Adviser John Bolton – in a speech organized by the conservative Federalist Society – said that the decision “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.”
He said that the US supports a direct and robust Middle East peace process and will not allow the International Court of Justice at The Hague or any other organization to restrict Israel’s right to defend itself.
The Palestinian National Authority in May filed a complaint against Israel over its settlements policy and the violent deaths of hundreds of Palestinians, but at present the ICJ has not opened an investigation into the matter.
The Trump administration last November informed the Palestinians that it might close the PLO’s Washington office unless they agreed to negotiate with Israel.