US backtracks on decision to close Palestinian office in DC

WASHINGTON /Bethlehem/AP/

Assuring what Palestine News Net Work PNN purplish last night the Trump administration backtracked on its decision to order the Palestinians’ office in Washington to close, instead saying it would merely impose limitations on the office that it expected would be lifted after 90 days.

According to the Associated Press USA backtracked on its decision to order the Palestinians’ office in Washington to close After talks between Palestinian and Amrican sides .

Informed political and media sources told PNN last night that there is a US decision to delay the implementation of the decision to close PLO mission in Washington.

The sources told PNN that US and Palestinian officials are holding quiet consultations to find creative mechanisms to end the file away from straining relations between the two sides.

According to the sources who spoke with PNN editor in chief , the US decision to postpone the implementation of the decision to close PLO mission came on the backdrop of continuing Palestinian-American consultations to find a way out of the current crisis.

The consultations led by Dr. Saeb Erekat, PLO Executive Committee Secretary and Ambassador Hossam Zomolt, head of Palestinian mission in Washington, White House and US State Department officials represent USA side.

The source said that there is a Palestinian-American desire to reach a solution to the current crisis, especially after the Palestinian Authority’s decision to stop contacts with the American side, pointing out that there is American desire to overcome the crisis as the administration seeks to present its vision for peace in the Middle East.

Last week, U.S. officials said the Palestine Liberation Organization mission couldn’t stay open because the Palestinians had violated a provision in U.S. law requiring the office to close if the Palestinians try to get the International Criminal Court to prosecute Israelis.

The move triggered a major rift in U.S.-Palestinian relations that threatened to scuttle President Donald Trump’s ambitious effort to broker Mideast peace before it ever got off the ground.

State Department spokesman Edgar Vasquez said the U.S. had “advised the PLO Office to limit its activities to those related to achieving a lasting, comprehensive peace between the Israelis and Palestinians.”

Vasquez said even those restrictions will be lifted after 90 days if the U.S. determines the Israelis and Palestinians are engaged in serious peace talks. The White House, in an effort led by Trump adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, has been preparing a comprehensive peace plan to present to both sides in the coming months.

“We therefore are optimistic that at the end of this 90-day period, the political process may be sufficiently advanced that the president will be in a position to allow the PLO office to resume full operations,” Vasquez said.

The reversal marked a serious departure from the administration’s interpretation of the law only a week earlier.

Officials had said then that, one way or another, the office had to close because Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, in a U.N. speech in September, had called on the ICC to investigate and prosecute Israelis.

That same law, though, says that the president can let the office re-open after 90 days despite an ICC push if serious Israeli-Palestinian talks are underway.

There were no indications that the Trump administration had initially moved to close the office as part of a premeditated strategy to strengthen its hand in eventual peace talks. Instead, officials explained the move by saying Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, in a strict interpretation of the law, determined that Abbas’ speech had crossed the legal line.

Still, the move led the Palestinians to issue an angry response last weekend threatening to suspend all communication with the U.S. Additionally, senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat accused the U.S. of bowing to pressure from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government “at a time when we are trying to cooperate to achieve the ultimate deal.”