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AMMAN: The Palestine mission to the US continues to operate normally, despite threats by US National Security Adviser John Bolton to close it. American officials say that the closure will take place soon because Palestine, a member of the International Criminal Court, has called on it to investigate Israeli war crimes.
Husam Zomlot, head of the PLO mission in Washington, who has been recalled back to Ramallah since May in protest at the move of the US Embassy to Jerusalem, did not appear to be concerned. He told journalists in Ramallah that the closure will not stop Palestinians from pursuing Israel for war crimes.
The aim of the closure, Zomlot said, is “to protect Israel from investigations into its war crimes, and crimes against humanity that Israel is committing in the occupied Palestinian territories.”
Daniel Seidman, an Israeli lawyer and a peace activist in Jerusalem, told Arab News that the US is trying to crush Palestinian nationalism. “The US is engaged in an attempt to neuter or dismantle the Palestinian movement: The embassy, UNRWA, the East Jerusalem hospitals, occupation denial, now the PLO office. This is so blatant it cuts against broad international consensus which isolates the US.”
Seidman called the US move, which claims to remove Jerusalem from the negotiating table, “infantile.”
Hani Elmasri, a respected Palestinian political analyst and director of the Masarat think tank in Ramallah, told Arab News that the latest threat of closure is not new. “Since the US president refused last Nov. 17 to renew the registration of the mission in Washington, nothing has happened.”
Elmasri believes that the Trump administration is trying to increase pressure on the Palestinian president while pleasing his own rightwing and Christian Zionist base. Elmasri said the threats “make a loud noise but have no effect after all that Trump has done to the Palestinians.”
Rev. Munther Isaac, pastor of the Lutheran Nativity Evangelical Church and dean of the Bethlehem Bible College, told Arab News that the US moves are aimed at “blackmailing” the Palestinians and crushing their will. “In all these moves the people pay the price. What is the goal of this act of bullying? Is it just revenge against the Palestinians because they are not going along with their plans?”
Imad Shakour, a veteran PLO member who specializes in Israel and US affairs, told Arab News that the decision of the Trump administration will not make any difference. “Palestinians are making major headway in the international arena and in the US and instead of isolating Palestine, the US is isolating itself.”
Ori Nir, the director of communication at the nonprofit organization Americans for Peace Now, told Arab News that the move to close the Palestinian office in Washington is “another swing of Trump’s wrecking ball” at prospects for Israeli-Palestinian peace. “By acting as a bully, punishing and humiliating the Palestinians, the administration is wrecking its ability to serve as either an honest or an effective broker of Israeli-Palestinian peace, harming both US and Israeli national security interests,” he said.
Veteran Lebanese political analyst Hekmat El-Zein told Arab News that the goal of the Trump administration is to extract the highest concessions from Palestinians in favor of Netanyahu and a reflection of their failures in the Middle East. “They are not able to do anything in Syria and Iraq, and so they feel that they can make some progress by acting to reverse any decisions of the previous administration.”
El-Zein said that the US administration is acting in this way because of Arab divisions: “They know that the PLO has little or no Arab cover these days, and so it has become an easy target.”