The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) just got some bad news with the Trump administration recently announcing that they will close the PLO’s office in Washington, D.C.
This move follows the administration’s recent decision to cut financial aid to the PLO in August. Could this indicate a more aggressive approach designed to apply pressure to the Palestinian leadership to move toward peace with Israel?
State Department Announces PLO Office Closure
On Monday, September 10th, the State Department released a statement outlining their decision to close the PLO’s office. It says that the PLO:
“[h]as not taken steps to advance the start of direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel. 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.”
The statement also indicates that their decision was partly based on the PLO’s effort to convince the International Criminal Court (ICC) to launch an investigation into Israel. In a speech given later in the day, National Security Advisor John Bolton slammed the ICC, calling it “illegitimate.” He also said: “for all intents and purposes, the ICC is already dead to us.”
Bolton also declared that the United States could apply sanctions to the ICC if it acts against Israel or other U.S. allies. These sanctions could potentially ban judges and prosecutors from entering the United States and may also result in the freezing of assets.
Predictably, the PLO is not happy about this new development. Saeb Erekat, a senior diplomat for the PLO, released his own statement in response:
“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.”
Erekat also claimed that closing the PLO offices “shows that the US is willing to disband the international system in order to protect Israeli crimes and attacks against the land and people of Palestine as well as against peace and security in the rest of our region.”
A New Approach
The Trump administration’s decision to shut down the PLO office is the latest in a series of actions designed to push the organization to make a genuine effort toward a peaceful solution with Israel. When the president announced that he was moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, it sent a clear message to the Palestinian leadership: You are running out of time if you want a two-state solution. Cutting aid to the PLO also communicated that using U.S. funds to support terrorism is unacceptable.
These actions are a significant departure from the previous administration that favored a strategy based on appeasement. This approach failed time and time again.
Each time Israel has offered — and given — concessions, the Palestinian leadership has rejected them. Instead, they have responded with more violence and bloodshed. Of course, nobody can argue that Israel has behaved perfectly in this conflict, but it is arguable that Israel is the party that has made concrete moves toward peace. Trump’s predecessors used an ineffective strategy to foster peace in the region. Perhaps a more aggressive approach will help this administration succeed where others have failed.