The Trump administration is expected to announce Monday that it will shutter the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) office in Washington, D.C. in an attempt to coerce Palestinian cooperation in stalled Middle East peace talks.
“The United States will always stand with our friend and ally, Israel,” national security adviser John Bolton is expected to say in in a Monday afternoon address, obtained by the Wall Street Journal. “The Trump administration will not keep the office open when the Palestinians refuse to take steps to start direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel.”
The move comes after the administration cut hundreds of millions in aid to Palestine and moved the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in a strong show of support for Jewish sovereignty over the disputed territory.
Husam Zomlot, the Palestinian representative to Washington, said the latest development will deepen Palestinian resistance to U.S.-led peace efforts.
“We don’t think this is just about bullying…we believe this is about the implementing of Israel’s grocery list, they are implementing it rather than pressuring us,” Zomlot told the Journal, adding that U.S.-Palestinian relations “are a historic low.”
“All of this is making sure the U.S. will never ever play the role of the peacemaker,” he said.
In response to the office closure, the PLO plans to hasten its efforts to sanction Israel in the International Criminal Court (ICC) for the killing of Palestinian civilians at the Gaza border fence. Palestinian officials have also called for an investigation into U.S. support for Israel, though the U.S. is not a member of the organization.
Bolton, a staunch critic of the ICC, which the U.S. and Russia have both refused to join, threatened to sanction ICC officials in response to any investigation of U.S. actions.
“We will sanction their funds in the U.S. financial system, and we will prosecute them in the U.S. criminal system,” Bolton said. “We will do the same for any company or state that assists an ICC investigation of Americans.”