The US State Department has confirmed its decision to close the PLO mission in Washington, which deals with Palestinian consular and commercial affairs in the country.
“After careful review, the government has determined that the General Delegation of the Palestine Liberation Organization in Washington should close,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said.
This is the latest in a series of U.S. measures that have increased tension with the Palestinian Authority and called into question the viability of a Washington-mediated peace process. The relations have deteriated since President Trump recognized Jerusalem as thr Capitol of Israel, and the cancellation of almost all of the multimillion-dollar U.S. funds given to the Palestinians.
The State Department attributed the decision to the PLO’s reluctance “to move forward in starting direct negotiations with Israel,” and its refusal to participate in the peace plan prepared by Jared Kushner, the son-in-law of U.S. President Donald Trump.
But the measure also relates to Congressional “concern about Palestinian attempts to promote an investigation of Israel at the International Criminal Court,” Nauert said.
In 2015, the U.S. Congress mandated in law that the Palestinian diplomatic mission be closed if the PLO were to lobby for the opening of an investigation against Israel.
That condition has not been fulfilled as of yet, given that the ICC has not yet opened any investigation into the complaint that the Palestinian Authority (PA) filed in May against Israel for the ‘illegal’ settlements and deaths of Palestinians
The announcement coincided with the first formal speech by Trump’s national security advisor, John Bolton, who made a vehement indictment against the ICC.
“The United States supports a direct and robust peace process (between Israelis and Palestinians), and we will not allow the ICC, or any other organization, to restrict Israel’s right to defend itself,” the adviser told the conservative Federalist Society.
Bolton also said the ICC had informed the U.S. that it will soon open a “formal investigation” into possible war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
“The United States will use whatever means necessary to protect our citizens and those of our allies from being unjustly prosecuted by this illegitimate court. We will not cooperate with the ICC,” Bolton said.
Although the U.S. rejects the jurisdiction of the ICC, this court has ruled that the alleged crimes of its soldiers and CIA members could be investigated, because they would have been committed in countries that have ratified the Rome Statute.
Such a possible ICC inquiry would cover alleged abuses committed between 2003 and 2006 in secret CIA prisons in Afghanistan, Poland, Romania and Lithuania.
Bolton listed a series of reprisals against the court, such as the ban on entry to the U.S. of its judges and prosecutors: “In addition, we will sanction their funds in the U.S. financial system, and prosecute them in the U.S. criminal system. We will do the same with any company or state that cooperates in an ICC investigation against Americans,” he warned.
In addition, the United States “will consider taking action in the U.N. Security Council to restrict the broad powers of the Court” and ensure that it “does not exercise jurisdiction against Americans” or Israelis, he said.
“No committee of foreign nations will tell us how to govern ourselves and defend our freedom,” Bolton said.