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Daily Israel Report

Lawmakers Urge Obama to Close PLO Office in Washington

A bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers are circulating a letter calling on President Obama to close the office of PLO in Washington, D.C.
By Rachel Hirshfeld
First Publish: 12/12/2012, 5:23 PM

PA Chairman Abbas
PA Chairman Abbas
Flash 90

A bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers are circulating a letter on Capitol Hill calling on President Barack Obama to close the office of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) in Washington, D.C.

Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), Howard Berman (D-Calif.), Edward Royce (R-Calif.) and Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) are circulating a letter in response to the Palestinian Authority’s successful bid at the United Nation, urging that the U.S. to utilize “every means at our disposal to ensure that this General Assembly vote does not serve as a precedent for elevating the status of the PLO in other UN bodies or international forums.”

“We are deeply disappointed and upset that the Palestinian leadership rebuffed the entreaties of your Administration and the Congress and insisted on pursuing this distinctly unhelpful initiative,” the letter states.

Echoing the apprehension of the mainstream Jewish community, the lawmakers assert that, “This Palestinian action violated both the letter and spirit of the Oslo Accords, and it opened the door for expanded Palestinian efforts to attack, isolate, and delegitimize Israel in a variety of international forums- a threat which, even if unrealized, would hang over Israel’s head during any future negotiations or any effort by the Israeli government to defend its citizens from terrorism.”

The lawmakers further maintain that the United States “must respond strongly” to the unilateral PA actions saying that, “One important way of expressing U.S. disapproval would be to send the message that such actions are not cost-free and that, at a minimum, they result in setbacks to U.S.-Palestinian relations.”

“We can do this by closing the PLO office in Washington, D.C. We can also call our Consul-General in Jerusalem home for consultations. We urge you to take these steps,” the letter adds.

The initiative is backed by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and opposed by the extreme left leaning groups of J Street and Peace Now.

Voicing its opposition, J Street, which has long been accused of espousing anti-Israel beliefs, launched an effort Monday to discourage House of Representatives members from signing the letter.

“At a time when the United States should be looking for ways to encourage and deepen diplomacy, talk of ejecting one of the parties from the country defies logic,” J Street said in its action alert.

A Senate amendment proposed last month that would have shut down the PLO office did not succeed in making it to the voting stage, prompting celebrations from J Street, which maintained that such measures are “usually reserved for instances in which the United States is responding to deadly acts committed against our country or citizens, or gross violations of human rights by the government in question.”

Meanwhile, Chairman Abbas warned Tuesday that the PA would, in fact, pursue Israel at the International Criminal Court if it continues with plans to build new Jewish homes in the controversial area of E1, located between Jerusalem and Ma’ale Adumim, adding that it would be only one of several options that would be considered.