News & Politics

Trump Administration Threatens to Close Palestinian D.C. Office

(AP Photo/Mohammed Zaatari)

A provision in a U.S. law requires the government to close the Palestinian mission in Washington if they try to get the International Criminal Court to prosecute Israelis for crimes against Palestinians. The State Department says that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas violated that provision in a speech at the UN in September by calling on the ICC to investigate and prosecute Israelis.

The State Department has now put the Palestinians on notice that their office will close unless they open “direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel” in the next 90 days.

Associated Press:

Trump now has 90 days to consider whether the Palestinians are in “direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel.” If Trump determines they are, the Palestinians can keep the office. The official said it was unclear whether the U.S. might close the office before the 90-day period expires, but said the mission remains open at least for now.

Even if the office closes, the U.S. said it wasn’t cutting off relations with the Palestinians and was still focused on “a comprehensive peace agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians.” The State Department official said in an email that “this measure should in no way be seen as a signal that the U.S. is backing off those efforts.” The official wasn’t authorized to be identified by name and requested anonymity.

The PLO office and the Israeli Embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Although the Israelis and Palestinians are not engaged in active, direct negotiations, Trump’s administration has been working all year to broker a peace deal that would end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Led by Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and a senior aide, White House officials have been preparing a peace proposal they intend to put forward at an unspecified time.

The Palestinians, though publicly supportive of the U.S. effort, have been skeptical because Trump’s close ties to Israel suggest whatever deal he proposes might be unfavorable to them. The threat of losing their office in the U.S. capital could become another pressure point as the Trump administration seeks to persuade the Palestinians to come to the table.

I don’t blame Trump for giving Israeli-Palestinian peace the old college try. For some reason, every president that comes into office thinks he has the magic formula to convince the Palestinians to formally recognize the state of Israel’s right to exist and convince the Israelis that the Palestinians are sincere.

This, despite all evidence to the contrary.

But, as the old adage goes, “if they’re talking, they’re not shooting at one another.” That’s diplo-speak for trying to get the immovable object to bow to the wishes of the irresistible force or vice versa. It isn’t going to happen, and won’t happen, until the Palestinians acknowledge there are two legitimate parties to the negotiations.

Bill Clinton allowed the Palestinians to open a mission 1994. In 2011, Obama allowed them to fly the Palestinian flag. I would regard the presence of a Palestinian mission on U.S. soil as of marginal benefit at best. It’s not us that the Palestinians should be talking to. It’s Israel. And they should know by now that we’re not going to sell the Israelis out and allow terrorists to possess their own state.