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Trump to close PLO office in Washington

Sept. 10, 2018 12:41 P.M. (Updated: Sept. 13, 2018 12:04 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- The United States Donald Trump administration is expected to announce on Monday that it will close the Palestine Liberation Organization’s office in Washington.

According to reports, this decision is part of a widening U.S. pressure campaign on Palestinian officials amid stalled Middle East peace prospects and that the US National Security Advisor, John Bolton, is expected to announce the decision in several hours.

Bolton is also expected to threaten to impose severe sanctions against the International Criminal Court (ICC) if it attempts to investigate or consider any war crime charges against Israel raised by the Palestinians.

"The Trump administration will not keep the office open when the Palestinians refuse to take steps to start direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel," according to a draft of Bolton's remarks reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

The PLO office in Washington has long been the focus of controversy.

Last year, the US Trump administration warned that it might close the office after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called for the investigation and prosecution of Israeli officials by the ICC.

The closure of the PLO office follows the US Trump administration’s decisions such as recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, ending all funds to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), and most recently cancelling $20 million in aid to Palestinian hospitals in occupied East Jerusalem.

Allegedly Bolton plans to announce that despite the decision, Trump is still committed to negotiating a peace plan between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

Ahmed Tamimi, member of the PLO Executive Committee and head of its Human Rights and Civil Society Department, responded to the awaited decision and said it was "hypocritical and blatantly biased toward the extremist right wing Israeli government."

Tamimi stressed that the US decision "will not dissuade the Palestinian leadership from its efforts to take Israel to the ICC to punish it for its crimes against the Palestinian people and its violation of international humanitarian law and resolutions."

Tamimi added that "regardless of the actions of the Trump administration targeting the Palestinians and their rights, the Palestinian leadership will not stop efforts to bring down the 'Deal of the Century.'"

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