Nauert cited, among other factors, the Palestinian criticism of the long-expected but still unpublished U.S. plan for peace in the region, a proposal that is being drafted by Jared Kushner, Donald Trump’s son-in-law who serves as a White House senior adviser, and Jason Greenblatt, the president’s special envoy to the peace process. “This decision is also consistent with administration and congressional concerns with Palestinian attempts to prompt an investigation of Israel by the International Criminal Court,” she added.
Husam Zomlot, the head of the PLO office in Washington, called the administration’s action “reckless.”
What the office’s closure essentially means is that there will be no Palestinian representation in Washington. But as Zomlot has been out of the U.S. capital since December, not much will change in reality, Ghaith al-Omari, an expert on Palestinians at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told me. He said the problem with the Trump administration’s logic in closing the PLO office is twofold: “One, there is no negotiation to go back to. Two, this is the kind of pressure that frankly doesn’t impact the calculation of the Palestinian Authority. This is a symbolic move that will not create the kind of pressure that they want. Instead, it will harden the Palestinian position.”
Indeed, Zomlot said attempts to pressure the Palestinians won’t work because “national decision-making processes and our people are immune to acts of … bullying.” He said the U.S. announcement only undermined the United States’ role as a peacemaker.
“This did not come as a surprise to us,” Zomlot said. “Putting all the dots together, and crossing all the t’s and following the trajectory of what has been happening over the last nine months, it is obvious that the team of Mr. Trump is on a mission, and the mission is primarily to simply give Israel exactly what it wants.”
Over that period, the Trump administration has cut funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, depriving the UN agency of critical funds from its largest international donor; moved the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, in line with U.S. law passed in 1995 (Israel regards Jerusalem as its eternal, undivided capital, and the Palestinians want East Jerusalem to be the capital of their future state); and cut about $200 million in aid for the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.
The U.S. is sidelining itself in the Middle East.
In remarks Monday to the Federalist Society, Bolton related the move to close the PLO office to a potentially further-reaching policy of refusing to cooperate with the ICC, which he said was biased against Israel. He called the institution as a whole “ineffective, unaccountable, and, indeed, outright dangerous.”
“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,” Bolton said. “There has also been a suggestion that the ICC will investigate Israeli construction of housing projects on the West Bank.”