SAEB Erekat, Secretary General of the Palestine Liberation Organisation’s (PLO) Executive Committee, said on Saturday that ‘the US State Department notified us with an official letter that they cannot certify the continuance opening of the PLO office in Washington DC due to the fact that we are pursuing and encouraging the ICC (International Criminal Court).’
Erekat said in a statement from Washington: ‘We responded to them with an official letter that in case you officially close the PLO office in Washington DC, we will put on hold all our 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 we are trying to cooperate to achieve the ultimate deal they take such steps which will undermine the whole peace process,’ said Erekat.
PLO Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi also condemned the US decision. She said: ‘Instead of holding Israel liable for its persistent violations of international law and conventions, the US administration and Congress are threatening to punish the Palestinian people because of statements made by President Mahmoud Abbas at the United Nations and other leaders pertaining to ICC accountability for Israel and for its war crimes in Palestine. It is ironic that the US is taking steps to punish the victim, the occupied and not the perpetrator of the crime, the occupier.’
The PLO official added: ‘Conditioning the renewal of the waiver on the Palestinians’ sticking to ‘direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel’ is actually superfluous since negotiations are nonexistent, and the current US administration has yet to present any kind of peace initiative.’
Ashrawi added: ‘After decades of negotiations, contacts and cooperation, it is unfathomable why American relations with the PLO have not been legally normalised and why the PLO, which is the highest political body in Palestine representing all Palestinians, continues to be subject to that statute, hence to blackmail and coercion.
‘The Palestinian leadership has been negotiating with Israel for decades and has consistently abided by international law and signed agreements while Israel persisted in violating them without accountability or constraints. Yet, it is the PLO that continues to be placed on probation and unfairly judged while Israel is given preferential treatment and license to act with full impunity.
‘If President Donald Trump decides not to renew the waiver after ninety days, the US will embolden Israel even further and provide it with greater cover for its lack of compliance and unilateral actions. Such a measure will also disqualify the US from taking any part in peacemaking and undermine its standing in the region and beyond.
‘If it wants to be evenhanded and play any constructive role, the US government should first break its deafening silence on the illegal settlements and maintain longstanding American policy on the two-state solution and the 1967 boundaries. Recognition of Palestine would go a long way towards proving that the US holds all people equal before the law.’
• Israeli authorities on Friday reportedly distributed evacuation notices to all 300 Palestinian residents of the Bedouin village of Jabal al-Baba in the central occupied West Bank district of Jerusalem. Staff from Israel’s civil administration, backed by Israeli army, stormed the village and ordered its residents to leave their homes.
Jabal Al-Baba consists of 100 buildings, 58 of which are houses, while the rest are structures used for agriculture. Because the community is unrecognised, the people in Jabal al-Baba live without electricity and get water only from tanks filled by trucks. In August, Israeli forces demolished the only kindergarten school in the village.