Trump orders Palestinian office closure

Refusal to enter into peace talks with Israel at issue

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration ordered the closure of the Palestinian dip­lomatic mission in Wash­ington on Monday and threatened sanctions against the Interna­tional Crim­inal Court if it pursues investigations against the U.S., Israel, or other allies. The moves are likely to harden Palestinian resistance to the U.S. role as a peace broker.

The administration cited the refusal of Palestinian leaders to enter into peace talks with Israel as the reason for closing the Palestinian Liberation Organiza­tion office, although the U.S. has yet to present its plan to resolve the Israel-Palestinian conflict. The Palestinians accused the administration of dismantling decades of U.S. engagement with them.

Shortly after the State De­partment announcement, Presi­dent Donald Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, launched a broadside against The Hague-based International Crim­inal Court. Bolton declared that the ICC “is already dead” to the U.S. He also threatened the court and its staff with sanctions if it proceeds with investigations into alleged war crimes by American troops in Afghanistan.

The closure of the PLO office — the latest in a series of moves targeting the Palestinians — was centered on the fact that no “direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel” are underway despite previous warnings, the State Department said. It said the decision was in line with U.S. law, a reflection of congressional concerns and consistent with U.S. policy to oppose and pun­ish Pales­tinian attempts to bring Israel before the ICC.

The administration had told the Palestinians last year that closure was a possibility unless they agreed to sit to down with the Israelis.