A majority of the House of Representatives want to punish the Palestinian Authority’s parent body, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), by having its Washington office closed down through legislation. The move is being questioned, however, as possibly being no more than ineffective cheerleading for Israel.
An attempt to force the issue through legislation is not likely to succeed, given a failed attempt in the Senate earlier this month to downgrade the status of the PLO’s delegation in Washington.
The House campaign followed a letter sent to President Barack Obama by four senior Republicans and Democrats, who asked him to order the PLO offices to be closed.
The letter was a response to PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas’ violation of the Oslo Accords by circumventing talks with Israel and going to the United Nations for de facto recognition.
The UN General Assembly overwhelmingly granted the PA non-member observer status and passed a non-binding resolution recognizing a future PA country on the basis of the Temporary Armistice Lines drawn by the UN in 1949.
After the vote, three senators, Democrat Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York and Republican Senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and John Barraso of Wyoming, failed to win approval for an amendment to a defense spending bill that would have closed the PLO offices as well as cut aid to the Palestinian Authority.
The liberal Forward newspaper quoted Philip Wilcox, a former U.S. consul general in Jerusalem and president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace, as saying, “This is no more than posturing. It shows how congressmen are willing to bow to the wishes of (the Israel lobby) knowing the legislation will not go anywhere.”
Once upon a time, the United States prohibited any contact with the PLO, founded as a terrorist organization by Yasser Arafat. However, the American government allowed it to open up an information office in 1978 and 10 years later accepted it as the “Palestine Affairs Center.”
With the Oslo Accords in 1993, the PLO had won a new image and its status n Washington was raised to that of a General Delegation, allowing the Palestinian Authority flag to be raised and waved outside its offices.