A U.S. State Department official announced that the Palestinian diplomatic mission in Washington, D.C., must shut down, saying the Palestinians violated U.S. law by calling on the International Criminal Court to prosecute Israel authorities for building homes for Jews on Israeli land and evicting Muslims illegally squatting on Israeli land. Palestine leaders warn it will cut off relations with the U.S. if its DC office is shut down. (Good!)
NBC Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has determined that the Palestinians have run afoul of a U.S. law that allows their mission to the U.S. to function, a State Department official confirmed to NBC News. Although the U.S. does not recognize Palestinian statehood, the organization maintains a “general delegation” office in Washington that facilitates Palestinian officials’ interactions with the U.S. government.
A condition in the law which allows support funds to be granted to the Palestinian Liberation Organization, or PLO, and for their Washington office to operate is that they do not request the International Criminal Court, or ICC, prosecute Israelis for crimes against Palestinians.
Tillerson has judged that the Palestinians violated this provision due to “certain statements made by Palestinian leaders about the ICC,” the official said. A State Department official told The Associated Press that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas crossed the line in September by calling on the ICC to investigate and prosecute Israelis.
Speaking at the United Nations General Assembly, Abbas called for the ICC to “open an investigation and to prosecute Israeli officials for their involvement in settlement activities and aggressions against our people.”
Nabil Abu Rudeina, spokesman for the Palestinian presidency, said Saturday that the move represented an unprecedented step in the history of U.S.-Palestinian relations, with serious consequences for the peace process and for U.S.-Arab relations, the Palestine News Agency reported.
The Palestinian foreign minister warned earlier Saturday that the Palestinians would not give in to “extortion.” Having called the reported decision “unprecedented in the history of US-Palestinian relations,” Mahmoud Abbas’ spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh said it “could have serious consequences on the peace process and US-Arab relations,” Palestine News Agency WAFA reported Saturday.
If after 90 days, Trump determines that the Palestinians have entered into “direct, meaningful negotiations with Israel,” then they can keep their office and all restrictions placed on the PLO in the U.S. will be waived, the State Department official told NBC News.