The administration of the Republican president informed Palestinian Authority leadership of the immediate closure of the Palestinian Liberation Organization Washington office, which is its diplomatic mission. This new pressure tactic from Donald Trump is in addition to the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and the transfer of the U.S. embassy to the holy city, as well as cutting U.S. funding to support the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, and the cancellation of humanitarian aid to maintain hospitals and essential social services.
This is because the PLO would have initiated procedures for the International Criminal Court to open an investigation against Israel for war crimes. The Palestinian diplomatic representative, Husan Zomlo, confirmed this. In a statement, Saeb Ereka, secretary general of the PLO, denounced a “dangerous escalation” in the pressure tactics by Trump’s administration. In November of last year, Washington had already ordered a temporary closure of the Palestinian mission.
It is part of a new policy of sanctions directed by the Trump administration against the Palestinian people. The Gaza war of 2014 and the expansion of settlements by Israeli colonists are part of the files presented at The Hague, whose judges also anticipate investigating war crimes attributed to the Palestinian militias in Gaza. Since 2015, the Israeli government has been concerned about Palestinians presenting charges.
Nabil Sahat, international consultant for the Palestinian president, Mahmud Abbas, has stated from Ramala that “the closing of the mission is a new form of blackmail from Trump,” and that they would not accept “negotiation under extortion.” As the veteran Palestinian negotiator commented, “Our historic relationship will recover predictably after the November congressional elections in the U.S. or after Trump is defeated at the ballot box within two years. We can’t expect any other remedy.”
According to The Wall Street Journal, John Bolton, White House national security advisor, who was awarded privileged treatment last August during a four-day official visit to the Jewish state, announced unconditional U.S. support for Israel.
Recently, Trump ordered the cancellation of $25 million donated to the east Jerusalem hospital network, according to a U.S. Department of State spokesperson. The health centers in east Jerusalem (the population is mostly Palestinian, occupied in 1967 and annexed in 1989* by Israel) are also referral hospitals for more than five million Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank. This last decision places more than five million Palestinians at risk.
Bolton maintains that Trump has threatened to sanction the International Criminal Court, headquartered in The Hague, including adopting measures in the UN to restrict the power of this court, if it decides to investigate the U.S. or Israel for the repression in Gaza that left over 100 persons dead. The warning is a response to a petition by the prosecutor of the court, Fatou Bensouda, requesting authorization to investigate alleged crimes committed by U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan.
In a statement, the ICC has declared that it is an independent and impartial institution, supported by 123 countries. “The ICC, as a court of justice, will continue to do its work undeterred, in accordance with those principles and the overarching idea of the rule of law,” the institution affirmed. Bensouda, prosecutor for the ICC, confirmed last year that there was “reasonable basis to believe” that war crimes and crimes against humanity had been committed in Afghanistan and that all parties in the conflict would be investigated, including members of the U.S. armed forces and the CIA, according to The New York Times.
Trump continues to try to defeat the will of the Palestinians, who refuse to accept the president's peace plan. The PLO, headed by Abbas, is considered by the international community to be the organization that represents the Palestinian people. For its part, the Palestinian government froze relations with North American authorities after Washington unilaterally recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in December 2017.
Gustavo-Adolfo Vargas is a diplomat, attorney and political scientist
*Editor’s note: Although the reference to the annexation of east Jerusalem is accurately translated, there is some question as to the exact date that it occurred.