- The Washington Times - Monday, September 10, 2018

The Trump administration announced Monday that the Palestine Liberation Organization in Washington, D.C., will close, and essentially dared the International Criminal Court to push back against that decision.

“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,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement. “However, the PLO has not taken steps to advance the start of direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel.”

Ms. Nauert said the decision was also in response to Palestinian officials attempt to prompt an International Criminal Court investigation into the U.S. and Israel.

“The United States continues to believe that direct negations between the two parties are the only way forward,” she 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.”

In a defiant speech against the ICC, National Security Adviser John R. Bolton said the U.S. will sever ties the court if it goes along with the investigation request, as well as slam it with sanctions against both judges and funds.

“If the court comes after us, Israel or any of our other allies, we will not sit quietly,” Mr. Bolton said.

Senior diplomat Dr. Saeb Erekat demanded the international community to intervene in what he argued were U.S. “attacks against the international system as a whole” to defend Israel.

“We have been notified by a US official of their decision to close the Palestinian Mission to the US. This is yet another affirmation of the Trump Administration’s policy to collectively punish the Palestinian people, including by cutting financial support for humanitarian services including health and education,” he said in a statement.

CBS News and the Wall Street Journal both reported the decision early Monday morning.

The decision comes after the Trump administration cut about $25 million in aid originally allotted for Palestinians in East Jerusalem hospitals. Palestinians also took issue after Mr. Trump moved the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem. 

Reactions from foreign policy experts have been divided.

Vice President and Director of the Wilson Center’s Middle East Program Aaron David Miller denounced the administration’s decision and said it was an unprecedented and unwarranted punishment against Palestinians.

On the other hand, Senior Vice President of Research for the Federation of Defense of Democracies Jonathan Schanzer argued the shut out is justified because of how complex Palestinian representation has become.

• Dan Boylan contributed to this article.

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