The Trump administration will close the office of the Palestine Liberation Organization in Washington, which operates as the de facto embassy for Palestinians, the State Department announced on Monday.
In its statement, the administration accused the PLO of failing to work toward “the start of direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel.” Earlier this year, after the U.S. announced in February it would move the American embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, Palestinians withdrew from talks related to a yet-to-be-released U.S. plan. “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,” the State Department’s statement said. The statement also raised concerns about “Palestinian attempts to prompt an investigation of Israel by the International Criminal Court.”
It was the latest move in the Trump administration’s campaign to put pressure on the Palestinian government—a campaign that the Palestinians perceive as a form of bullying by a biased country that has no right to be so involved in the negotiations. Making tensions worse, the State Department said last week that the U.S. would pull $25 million in aid for the East Jerusalem Hospital Network, which primarily serves Palestinians, after the administration determined that the funds were not advancing American interests. At the time, the administration had already announced that it would cut hundreds of millions in funding to the United Nations organization that aids Palestinian refugees.
The announcement angered Palestinian officials, who have felt increasingly at odds with the U.S. after the Trump administration recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital last year. The U.S. had already threatened to close the PLO’s office when Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called on the ICC—which the U.S. and Israel do not recognize—to investigate Israel for war crimes. The administration maintains that the Palestinians violated U.S. law by seeking Israel’s prosecution through the international body.
On Monday, national security adviser John Bolton threatened sanctions against the ICC if it moves ahead with any investigations into Israel or any Americans. But according to the Washington Post, Palestinian leaders have said they are determined to submit a new complaint to the ICC related to Israel.