The Unusually Strange Issue Around the Washington PLO Office

Prof. As’ad Abdul Rahman

In late September, the State of Palestine was accepted as a member of the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol) and a member of the International Criminal Court. Immediately, the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu moved “to discuss a plan with the administration of US President Donald Trump and members of the Congress to pressure the Palestinians and stop their unilateral actions in the international arena with the aim of disrupting the trial of Israeli officials in international courts and even moving towards the closure of the PLO office in Washington” (which Palestinians call an embassy) unless they stop taking such “unilateral” actions!!! According to the newly founded state-owned KAN Israeli television: “the plan to close down the PLO office was discussed during Netanyahu’s meeting with David Friedman, the US ambassador in Tel Aviv, the American envoy Gibson Greenblatt and Israel ambassador to the US Ron Dremer”, who are all  hardcore Jews and Zionists!

In 1994, the United States of America allowed the PLO (as the official representative of all Palestinians) to open an office in Washington. Former US president Bill Clinton waived a law stipulating that Palestinians cannot have offices which require renewal of certification every six months. The swinging strange issue went on. In December 2015, the Congress passed a law imposing conditions on the PLO office, stipulating that the Organization cannot run its office if it pursues prosecution of Israeli officials in the International Criminal court on crimes against the Palestinians. US President Donald Trump administration used this law to blackmail the Palestinian side, informing the PLO on November 17th,2017 that its office will be closed, citing statements by Palestinian officials pledging to prosecute Israel before the International Criminal Court. A week after this decision, the US State Department notified the Palestine Authority (PA) that it doesn’t plan to recertify their office in Washington to operate, unless the PA resumes peace negotiations with Israel and halt moves to prosecute Israeli officials.  This decision was followed by agreement to keep the office open with certain restrictions; “limiting the PLO office in Washington to issues relating to the achievement of a comprehensive and permanent peace with Israel.” Everyone knows that the work of the PLO office-since the announcement by the US president of what he called “the deal of the century” to achieve a historic peace deal between the Palestinians and Israel-, is becoming more active and effective. But in fact, the imbalance lies in the nature of US-Palestinian relations. From 1979 until now, the United States of America considers the Palestine Liberation Organization a “terrorist” organization!!! Indeed, the Trump administration is the only among the American administrations since the 1993 Oslo agreements between the PLO and Israel, which has not explicitly stated that the achievement of peace is based on the two-state solution and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state in the 1967 Palestinian territories with East Jerusalem as its capital, and did not even care to explicitly condemn Jewish colonization /settlement.

          Saeb Erekat, the secretary of the PLO, has referred to “27 draft resolutions in the US Congress to punish the Palestinian people, foremost of which is cutting aid to the Palestinian people, halting certification of the PLO office and moving the American embassy to occupied Jerusalem. All meant to divert attention from what the Netanyahu government is doing” of anti-peace laws and measures.  Though, the American extortion is not new in principle, since it was practised by former American administrations against the Palestinians, yet the new development is that the Trump administration did not hesitate to declare its real purpose behind this step. While American pressures on the PLO appeared at times to be alternately exerted by the Congress (which has always opposed the PLO) and the administration, today, both sides are placing pressures. Therefore, the American intention is to force the Palestinian leadership to return to the negotiating table with Israel according to Israeli conditions, on top of which is avoiding to freeze Jewish colonization of Palestinian lands by building settlements/ colonies.

In fact, a few weeks ago, the Foreign Relations Committee in Washington passed a bill that would stop $300 million in annual aid from the United States to the Palestinian Authority, “unless it stops spending what the bill described as money that rewards perpetrators of acts of violence against Israeli and American citizens.” In a parallel move, 16 Republican and Democratic members of the Committee asked the United States delegate to the United Nations, Nikki Healy, to “lead international efforts so that other countries take similar actions.” It is known that the United States provide $500 million to the Palestinian Authority annually, and if the legislation becomes effective, the PA will be granted only $60 million, which is originally earmarked for security coordination with the Israeli occupation authorities.

It is strange that while the United States recognize the PLO and its officials meet the Palestinian leaders, it still classifies the Organization as a terrorist group. When democrats formed a majority in Congress during previous administrations, the six month waiver allowing the PLO office to remain open was brought up at times without taking effect. The White House administrations which link their moves to the country’s higher interests used to show understanding. Nowadays, the Congress with a republican majority is more dominated by Zionist forces which increased its antagonism towards the PLO. The present White House administration, regardless of the Congress animosity, receives and negotiates with the Palestinian official leadership, while taking a hard-line position towards it and sometimes considering it as terrorist!!!

While we all know that the American administration cannot be a fair mediator between the Palestinians and Israel, the current Trump administration persists in being unjust. The world can see that the Palestinians always demonstrate their readiness to engage in serious negotiations to achieve peace on the basis of a two-state solution, while Israel hinders efforts towards such a goal. So, it is Israel who should be punished and not the Palestinians. In this context, the recent testimony provided by the former US secretary of state John Kerry attests to such facts.

It is remarkable that the recent American actions, such as the recognition of Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel, are inconsistent with what President Trump is talking about in order to achieve the “Deal of the Century”. Therefore, the entire American-Palestinian relationship must be reconsidered. President Trump cannot talk about a historic agreement, and then he will come out with such decisions that indicate a political blackmail for the punishment of the Palestinians as the Netanyahu government continues perpetration of acts such as land theft and colonization, ethnic displacement and systematic repression.