JERUSALEM/WASHINGTON —The Palestinian Authority froze links with the US Consulate in Jerusalem in protest at the State Department’s refusal to renew the certification for the Palestine Liberation Organisation’s (PLO) office in Washington DC.
Majdi al-Khalidi, a senior adviser to PA President Mahmoud Abbas, told the Jerusalem Post that communications with the US Consulate in Jerusalem and meetings between American and Palestinian officials are currently frozen because of the State Department’s decision regarding the PLO office in Washington.
The freeze includes contact with Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt. Earlier this week Saeb Erekat said the PA would suspend bilateral relations if the Trump administration ordered the PLO to close its office, jeopardising US President Donald Trump’s upcoming peace plan.
He said the move was the result of pressure by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the Trump administration but Netanyahu denied this while praising the US move.
“We respect the decision and look forward to continuing our work with the United States to promote peace and security in the region,” Netanyahu said in a statement released by his office.
Netanyahu indicated the move by the US State Department had nothing to do with Israel, saying “its an American law.”
Kan Radio News reported that a high-ranking official in the State Department said that the US would like the PLO offices to remain open, but clarified that US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson would not be able to permit them to continue to operate if Palestinian leaders continued to urge the International Criminal Court (ICC) to prosecute Israeli officials for war crimes.
US law obliges Tillerson to notify Congress if the Palestinians are encouraging the ICC to prosecute Israel for alleged war crimes.
In his speech to the UN General Assembly in September, Abbas said: “We have called on the International Criminal Court to open an investigation and to prosecute Israeli officials for their involvement in settlement activities and aggressions against our people, and we will continue to pursue our accessions to international conventions, protocols and organizations, as Palestine has acquired observer state status in accordance with UN General Assembly resolution 67/19 of 2012”.
Rex Tillerson has refused to certify on Friday that the Palestinians are complying with a 2015 Congressional mandate, which induces penalties if the PA pursues the prosecution of Israelis at the ICC.
The specific penalization, according to a provision in a US law passed in December 2015, is the closure of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s mission to the United States, located in Washington, DC.
“We were unable to make a new certification, and have notified the PLO accordingly,” a State Department official said. “The secretary concluded that the factual record, in particular certain statements made by Palestinian leaders about the ICC, did not permit him to make the factual certification required by the statute.”
In 2015 Congress introduced a provision that Palestinians may not try to wield influence over the ICC concerning investigations into Israeli nationals.
The declaration does not automatically mean the mission will close. US President Donald Trump now has a 90-day window to decide whether “the Palestinians have entered into direct, meaningful negotiations with Israel” — in which case he can waive the requirement to shutter the office.