The Trump administration has decided that the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) diplomatic delegation in Washington, D.C. will remain open for at least the next 90 days, Haaretz reported Saturday.
At the same time, the report said, its activity will be limited to actions that support efforts to renew the Israeli-Palestinian Authority (PA) peace process.
The decision was announced on Friday night, a week after U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson sent a letter to the Palestinian leadership warning that the delegation might be shut down as a result of statements made by PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas, who called on the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate Israel and prosecute actions by Israelis.
An official in the State Department told Haaretz on Friday that the delegation will be open for at least 90 days, and at the end of that period, Trump could announce that he is prolonging its activity because it is vital for supporting "meaningful" Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. This is in accordance with the U.S. law that describes the delegate's mandate.
"Given the lapse last week of a waiver of statutory restrictions on PLO activity in the United States, we have advised the PLO Office to limit its activities to those related to achieving a lasting, comprehensive peace between the Israelis and Palestinians," the official said.
According to the official, "the relevant statute provides that if, after 90 days, the President determines the Palestinians are engaged in direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel, restrictions on the PLO and its Washington Office may be lifted."
The official added that "the administration has been actively involved in efforts to restart substantial Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, and has thus far found both parties to be cooperative, constructive, and prepared to engage in negotiations.”
Despite a number of press reports that suggested the contrary, the official insisted that "the lapse in the waiver was not intended to create 'leverage' with or impose pressure on the Palestinians, with whom we have been having constructive discussions about the path to a lasting, comprehensive peace."
On Tuesday, the PA announced it had suspended meetings with the U.S. following the decision to shut down the PLO mission.
The State Department later clarified that the Trump administration would “like for [the PLO] to be able to keep [their mission] open."
A subsequent report indicated that PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas refused a phone call from Jared Kushner, U.S. President Donald Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law.
On Friday, senior PLO leader Saeb Erekat, who had previously threatened to cut off all contacts with the United States if it shuts down the Washington mission, said the report was completely false and that Abbas respects and appreciates Kushner.
Meanwhile, according to Haaretz, sources close to Abbas criticized on Saturday evening Washington’s announcement regarding the mission being open for 90 days.
According to the sources, the U.S. administration has submitted no document or initiative that the Palestinians can take seriously, even though it talks about the need to advance the peace process and wants the Palestinians to be part of the process.
“The Americans don’t have to pressure the Palestinians into entering negotiations, because the Palestinian leadership has already said yes to negotiations,” Ahmad Majdalani, a member of the PLO Executive Committee and an adviser to Abbas, told Haaretz.
Majdalani said that the Palestinian leadership is ready for negotiations but would not agree to accept dictates that were agreed upon ahead of time by Israel and the United States. He added that the Palestinians cannot, on the one hand, be asked not to promote action through the International Criminal Court and, on the other hand, not be able to move ahead on any real diplomatic channel.