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Pushing the dream of peace farther

Nov 19,2017 - Last updated at Nov 19,2017

The US State Department threatened on Friday to close the PLO’s office in Washington, opened in 1994, a move that the spokesman for the Palestinian presidency said “represents a blow to peacemaking efforts, while rewarding Israel, which is working to obstruct US efforts by persisting with its policy of settlements and its refusal to accept the two-state solution”.

The move, taken, according to senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, in response to the Palestinian decision to join the International Criminal Court (ICC) and submit files for investigation of several Israeli war crimes, including settlements, is, according to the same official, “pressure being exerted on this [US] administration by the Netanyahu government while we are trying to achieve the ultimate deal” and is bound to “undermine the whole peace process”.

The White House’s National Security Council justifies the prospect of closing the PLO office with a provision enacted in 2015, and introduced in the US Congress, related to “certain Palestinian actions” at the ICC that are intended “to influence a determination by the ICC to initiate a judicially authorised investigation or to actively support such an investigation that subjects Israeli nationals to an investigation for alleged crimes against Palestinians”.

Read: accept to be arrested, humiliated, killed, robbed of land without complaining, else, the epitome of democracy and human rights, the US, imposes legal punishments on the PLO and the Washington office.

Since Donald Trump came to office and promised the “ultimate deal”, illegal Israeli settlements have expanded at great rate in Palestinian territories and a new Israeli settlement is being built in the West Bank for the first time in 20 years.

If the PLO office is closed, Trump will have 90 days to determine whether “Palestinians have entered into direct, meaningful negotiations with Israel” before renewing the waiver that allows it to remain open in Washington — a move the State Department takes every six months.

If the “direct, meaningful negotiations” are the real problem, the US has got it all wrong.

It is the Israelis who are not accepting to enter into direct and meaningful negations, refusing every peace overtures Palestinians make.

It is Israel that declares “commitment” to peace while doing everything to make reaching it impossible.

And why does the US Congress consider taking Israel to task over actions in Palestinian territories that the international community, including the UN, consider unlawful?

Settlements — which gobble up Palestinian land, precluding the possibility of ever creating a contiguous state — have been considered an obstacle to peacemaking by many US administrations.

So what kind of “meaningful” negotiations can Palestinians get into with Israel when the elephant in the room has to be avoided?

The American threat is, as the PLO has said, nothing short of “extortion”. 

This lopsided US position could never lead to the much-touted deal the US administration claims to want to reach, to the much needed peace Palestinians dream of.

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