Saeb Erekat, the Secretary General of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), said on Saturday that the PLO would cut off all its contacts with the United States if the Trump administration follows through with a threat to shut down the PLO mission in Washington, DC.
“The State Department notified us in an official letter that they cannot certify the continued opening of the PLO office in Washington, DC, due to the fact that we are pursuing the ICC,” Erekat told Israeli public broadcaster Kan.
“We responded to them in an official letter that in case they officially close the office of the PLO in Washington, DC, we will put on hold all communications with this American administration,” he added.
“This is very unfortunate and unacceptable. This is the pressure being exerted on this administration from the Netanyahu government. At a time when we’re trying to cooperate to achieve the ultimate deal, they take such steps which will undermine this process,” charged Erekat.
His comments followed a report in the Associated Press which said that the Trump administration had put the PLO on notice that it will shutter their office in Washington unless they entered serious peace talks with Israel.
According to AP, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has determined that the Palestinians ran afoul of a provision in a U.S. law that says the PLO mission must close if the Palestinians try to get the International Criminal Court to prosecute Israelis for crimes against Palestinians.
A State Department official said that in September, PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas crossed that line by calling on the ICC to investigate and prosecute Israelis.
Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesman for Abbas, said on Saturday night the surprise stems from the fact that the meetings between Abbas and Trump were characterized by a full understanding of the steps necessary to create an atmosphere that would allow the resumption of the peace process.
He said that the American threat represented an unprecedented step in the history of U.S.-Palestinian relations and could have dangerous implications for the peace process and the relations between the United States and Arab countries.
Reports of the threat to shut down the PLO mission in Washington came several days after the House Foreign Affairs Committee unanimously approved the Taylor Force Act.
The bill, named for U.S. army veteran Taylor Force, who was murdered in a terrorist stabbing attack in Tel Aviv in March, 2016, would cut funding to the PA unless it stopped its payments to terrorists and their families.