WASHINGTON – The Palestine Liberation Organization for the first time
hoisted its flag above its Washington mission Tuesday, saying the
symbolic step shows progress in the US-Palestinian relationship.
“It’s about time that this flag that symbolizes the struggle of the
Palestinian people for self-determination and statehood be raised in the
United States,” said PLO chief of mission Maen Areikat. “I think it
indicates the willingness of the American administration to deal with
the realities on the ground.”
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Areikat unfurled the red, black, green and white flag above the brick Washington building housing the mission to applause from a small group of officials.
He said that US permission to officially raise the flag at this time
“means that the administration is serious, that they want to see the
struggle of the Palestinian people concluded and the establishment of a
Areikat said the Palestinians are urging the US government to now take concrete actions to make that state a reality.
Some in Washington opposed the move, however, including House Foreign
Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Florida).
“Raising this flag in DC is part of the Palestinian leadership’s scheme
to manipulate international acceptance and diplomatic recognition of a
yet-to-be-created Palestinian state while refusing to directly negotiate
with Israel or accept the existence of Israel as a democratic, Jewish
state,” she charged in a statement.
She said the flag-hoisting continues the effort on the part of
Palestinians to be recognized by foreign governments, and that it’s
“part of the same strategy aimed at extracting concessions without being
required to meet international commitments.”
Ros-Lehtinen also criticized the Obama administration, saying, “The US
has reinforced Ramallah’s rejectionism through economic and political
support, including support for the PLO office in Washington, instead of
requiring that they meet all conditions in US law.”
But Ghaith al-Omari, advocacy director for the American Task Force on
Palestine, defended the move and said it showed that the Palestinian
Authority was making progress in the West Bank that was worth
“The PLO mission would never have been made upgraded if it had not been
for the progress the Palestinians have made … on improving security and
governance,” he argued.
“It shows the Palestinians that once they start building their
institutions and [using] diplomacy, that there are political dividends
for that behavior,” he said, continuing that such positive reinforcement
“is very useful.”
He added that Palestinians understood that such steps would not replace direct negotiations.
“Everyone knows ultimately a Palestinian state will not come into being without an agreement,” he said.