(photo credit: AMIR COHEN - REUTERS)
The Palestinians have rejected the Trump administration’s explanation for why it did not renew the certification of the PLO representative office in Washington, a senior Palestinian official said on Sunday.
Without a certification, the PLO office could be forced to close.
According to Nabil Shaath, an adviser to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, senior Trump adviser Jared Kushner, US special representative for international negotiations Jason Greenblatt and US State Department officials communicated with Husam Zomlot, head of the PLO General Delegation to the US, on Saturday.
“They told us this is a legal and technical matter. We responded that we do not accept their explanation,” Shaath told The Jerusalem Post
Over the weekend, a US State Department official said that under legislation passed by Congress, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson could not renew a certification that expired this month for the PLO office “given certain statements made by the Palestinian leaders about the International Criminal Court.”
US law says the PLO cannot operate a Washington office if it urges the International Criminal Court
to prosecute Israelis for alleged crimes against Palestinians.
In an address to the United Nations General Assembly in September, Abbas said the Palestinian Authority called on the ICC “to open an investigation and to prosecute Israeli officials for their involvement in settlement activities and aggressions against our people.”
Shaath added that if the decision not to re-certify the PLO office leads to its closure, the Palestinians would halt their communications with the Trump administration.
“We told them if they close the PLO’s office in Washington, they will be closing the door on negotiations and conversations with us,” he said.
“We said that you cannot claim to support peace between Israelis and Palestinians and then close the Palestinians’ office in your capital. If they close the office, we will stop communicating with the consul-general in Jerusalem and any of Trump’s envoys.”
The PLO opened its representative office in Washington in 1994 following the signing of the Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestinians.
While the State Department has said it would not renew the office’s certification, Trump could issue a waiver after 90 days to lift restrictions on the PLO’s activities in the US capital if he “determines the Palestinians have entered into direct, meaningful negotiations with Israel.”
Abbas has said he is prepared “to work positively” with Trump’s peace efforts.
The Trump administration is reportedly drafting a plan to revive negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians
Shaath said the Palestinians still do not know what will happen to the office over the coming days.
“We are still waiting to see what happens,” he said. “The procedures are not clear to us.”
Reuters contributed to this report.