A six-month waiver was enacted by the Bush administration Thursday allowing the PLO's Washington office to stay open despite the fact that the movement's Fatah group is responsible for dozens of terrorist attacks and attempts a week in Israel. The office has always been problematic in light of a 1987 anti-terrorism law, but such waivers have been applied ever since 1993, after Yitzchak Rabin shook Yassir Arafat's hand during a pomp ceremony on the White House lawn.
The administration explained that the office remains a useful channel in maintaining ties with PLO chairman Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen).
If the waiver had not been applied, the PLO would not be allowed access to its funds in US banks and operation of the facility would become illegal because of the recent rise of Hamas to power and refusal to renouncing terrorism.
At the same time, the US representative to the UN Security Council has blocked a draft statement proposed by Qatar expressing concern over "the indiscriminate shelling against the Gaza Strip, resulting in extensive human casualties." The draft also demanded Israel "halt military operation and excessive use of force that endangers the Palestinian civilian populations."
Reportedly, the US posited that the draft was one-sided and failed to mention Arab terrorism and the two sides' obligations under the road map. Though the session was behind closed doors, Palestinian Authority observer to the UN Riyad Mansour implied that the US was the only one opposing the draft, saying, "one member…is shielding and protecting the Israeli actions and aggression against the Palestinian people in Gaza and in other parts of the occupied territory."
US Ambassador John Bolton denied that the US was the only one opposed, though, and Reuters reported that representatives of Britain and Denmark also opposed it. "If I were the only holdout, I'd be proud of that fact," Bolton said, "it was disproportionately critical of Israel, and unfairly so, and needlessly so."
As is customary in the UN when such a resolution fails to pass, an open Security Council meeting will be held Monday at which any of the 191 member nations will be allowed to speak on the matter. A week later, the council will hold its regular meeting on the Middle East.
"I don't see that that meeting is going to be productive, because I don't think the Security Council is an exercise in group therapy," Bolton responded to the move.