Trump Admin. Closes Palestinian Liberation Organization's DC Office, Israel 'Our Friend and Ally'

The State Department Building is pictured in Washington, U.S., January 26, 2017.
The State Department Building is pictured in Washington, U.S., January 26, 2017. | (Photo: REUTERS/Joshua Roberts)

The Trump administration is shutting down the Washington D.C. headquarters of the Palestinian Liberation Organization due to their refusal to takes steps toward peace with Israel. 

In a Monday speech before the conservative legal group The Federalist Society, National Security Advisor John Bolton said they were closing the office as well as placing sanctions on the International Criminal Court.

"The United States will always stand with our friend and ally, Israel," he said, adding that the current administration "will not keep the office open when the Palestinians refuse to take steps to start direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel."

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His remarks come as tensions escalate in the region and as Jews mark their new year, 5779. Rosh Hashanah began Sunday evening and will end Tuesday evening.

The move is being seen as a way to pressure the Palestinians to return to negotiations with the Jewish state.

"We have permitted the PLO office to conduct operations that support the objective of achieving a lasting, comprehensive peace between Israelis and the Palestinians since the expiration of a previous waiver in November 2017," said State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert, in a statement.

"However, the PLO has not taken steps to advance the start of direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel," she said, echoing Bolton.

Husam Zomlot, the Palestinian representative to Washington, said relations between the U.S. and the Palestinians are at historic lows, and that the action was all a part of Trump's efforts to pursue the "deal of the century." U.S. policy is effectively "implementing of Israel's grocery list," he said.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat also blasted the move.

"These people have decided to stand on the wrong side of history by protecting war criminals and destroying the two-state solution," he said of the Trump administration.

"I told them if you are worried about courts, you should stop aiding and abetting crimes."

Bolton also threatened to put sanctions against the International Criminal Court if it investigates the U.S. and Israel, saying the judicial body was "dead to us"

"While the Court welcomes the membership of the so-called 'State of Palestine,' it has threatened Israel — a liberal, democratic nation — with investigation into its actions to defend citizens from terrorist attacks in the West Bank and Gaza," Bolton said.

"We will ban its judges and prosecutors from entering the United States. We will sanction their funds in the U.S. financial system, and, we will prosecute them in the U.S. criminal system. We will do the same for any company or state that assists an ICC investigation of Americans," he said.

Ever since the Trump administration's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital and the subsequent relocation of the U.S. embassy there, the Palestinians have ceased regarding the U.S. as a partner for peace in the region.

Last month the State Department announced that United States was cutting more than $200 million in economic aid for Palestinians and was redirecting the funds to other projects.

That move happened "at the direction of President Trump," according to a State Department official, in order to ensure the money is spent "in accordance with U.S. national interests and [will] provide value to the U.S. taxpayer."

Follow Brandon Showalter on Facebook: BrandonMarkShowalter Follow Brandon Showalter on Twitter: @BrandonMShow

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