Donald Trump (L) and Mahmoud Abbas (R).
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Palestinians have frozen ties with the US Consulate in Jerusalem and with American officials visiting the West Bank in response to the State Department’s decision not to renew the certification of the PLO’s representative office in Washington, a senior adviser to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said on Tuesday.
The PLO representative office is the unofficial Palestinian Embassy in the American capital. Without a certification, it could be shut down.
“Communications with the consulate in Jerusalem and meetings between American and Palestinian officials in Palestine are currently frozen because of the decision not to renew the PLO office in Washington’s certification,” Abbas’s diplomatic affairs adviser, Majdi al-Khalidi, told The Jerusalem Post. “This is temporary until they clarify to us if the office is closed or open. If they tell us the office is closed, we will continue to freeze our communications.”
According to Khalidi, if Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s senior adviser, or Jason Greenblatt, the administration’s main peace envoy, came to the West Bank, PA officials would not be able to meet with them.
Khalidi added that the PLO representative in Washington, Husam Zomlot, and top Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat were in contact with the Trump Administration.
“Saeb Erekat and Ambassador Zomlot are meeting with the higher authorities in Washington to seek clarifications about whether the office is going to be closed or not,” Khalidi said. “We are still waiting to know if they actually plan to close the office.”
When asked to respond to Khalidi’s remarks about contacts being frozen with the US consulate and American officials visiting the West Bank, a State Department official said: “We continue to be in contact with Palestinian officials about the status of the PLO office in Washington, as well as about our larger efforts to advance a lasting and comprehensive peace. These discussions are ongoing.”
A spokesman at the US Consulate in Jerusalem did not respond to a request for comment.
Last weekend, another 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 ICC to prosecute Israelis for alleged crimes against Palestinians.
In an address to the UN General Assembly in September, Abbas appeared to violate this law when he called on the ICC “to open an investigation and prosecute Israeli officials for their involvement in settlement activities and aggression against our people.”
However, the official clarified that after 90 days, Trump could issue a waiver to lift restrictions on the PLO’s activities in the American 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
Khalidi, who is currently with Abbas in Spain, also said that the Palestinians wanted Congress to reverse all laws targeting PLO activities in Washington.
“We also want to resolve Congress’s anti-PLO laws completely.
This means we want to open a discussion on this issue and resolve it from its roots,” Khalidi said. “It is not acceptable that we are fighting terror, building our institutions and hosting American presidents, and then they treat us like terrorists.
This is not logical.”
However, he said that annulling the US laws would not be a condition to restoring ties with the consulate in Jerusalem and with American officials visiting the West Bank.
Congress has passed many laws targeting PLO activities in Washington.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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