A large illuminated Christmas stands high over the crowd in Manger Square, Bethlehem on Christmas eve, which is buttressed by the the Church of Nativity and the Mosque of Omar..
(photo credit: DOV LIEBER)
The Palestine Liberation Organization’s delegation to Washington canceled its Wednesday night Christmas party at the last minute, citing US President Donald Trump’s then-upcoming speech on Jerusalem.
Trump announced on Wednesday that the US formally recognizes the ancient city as Israel’s capital. The move has drawn ire from Palestinian officials, who claim it will dramatically set back the president’s effort to forge a comprehensive settlement to the conflict.
The Palestinian reception, which was to be held in the House of Representatives, was themed “a Bethlehem Christmas,” and was expected to draw US lawmakers as well as senior Trump administration officials.
Trump sparks Mideast fury with Jerusalem embassy plan (Reuters)
“This was a difficult decision given your cherished enthusiasm and confirmation to attend the event together with hundreds of US congressional members, government officials, esteemed policy makers, respected religious leaders, members of the diplomatic corps, international dignitaries, and our valued community, and civil society leaders,” the delegation said in a statement.
“Out of care for our leaders and children, it might be unsuitable for them to speak and sing shortly after the possibility of an announcement that runs counter to the message of peace.”
The Trump administration has repeatedly clashed with the Palestinians in recent weeks, especially with the PLO office in Washington, which it threatened to close last month after claiming it violated US law in calling for International Criminal Court prosecutions against Israelis.
The Palestinian envoy to Washington said this week that Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital might represent a “death knell” to the peace process if it means that a future Palestinian state will not have part of Jerusalem as a capital all its own.
Meanwhile, the president is scheduled to host his first White House Hanukka party on Thursday