After 24 years the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s diplomatic mission in Washington DC closed yesterday, following instructions from the Trump administration to shutter their operations in the U.S.
The head of the mission Palestinian Ambassador to the U.S. Husam Zomlot issued a goodbye message from the West Bank, where he was recalled last May in the wake of the U.S. moving its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
“Today is the deadline they put for our ability as mission to continue our growing outreach efforts to the American people,” Zomlot said in the recording posted to social media this afternoon, addressing “millions of good hearted americans.”
“We will not miss this last opportunity to talk to you,” Zomlot said, adding, “While the decision by the Trump administration to close our mission is unfortunate and vindictive, it was unsurprising to us.”
Today is the deadline for shutting down our public and external work in the US, following the decision of the US administration. On this occasion, a message from Ambassador @hzomlot to the American people pic.twitter.com/1hWjuBpSP8
— Palestine in the US (@PalestineUSA) September 13, 2018
The Palestinian leadership confirmed Monday the embassy would close soon, following reports of a leaked draft of a speech by National Security Advisor John Bolton last Sunday night that said the PLO mission would be shut down in the course of penalizing nations that seek prosecution against the U.S., Israel, or other allies at the International Criminal Court (ICC). Bolton, a long time critic of the ICC, indicated the following day at a summit for the Federalist Society that the measure against the PLO was both a sanction for its insistence jurists open an investigation into Israel, and for present unwillingness to engage the White House in its attempts at brokering an agreement with Israel.
“The Trump administration will not keep the office open when the Palestinians refuse to take steps to start direct and meaningful negations,” Bolton said Monday.
Closing the PLO Mission as a response to Palestinian actions at the ICC was raised as early as last November by Trump administration officials. Then Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters by going to the court the Palestinians had violated an obscure condition added by Congress in 2015 barring the Palestinians from the ICC. Confusion was raised in Washington a few days later when State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert said State wanted to keep the PLO office open.
In his farewell message, Zomlot underscored that the Palestinian relationship with the U.S. would remain strong, however, ties with the Trump administration would still sour. Official communication between the negotiations team headed by the president’s son-in-law and senior advisor Jared Kushner and special envoy Jason Greenblatt abruptly came to a stop last December when Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital—a redline for the Palestinians.
“The Trump administration gave us only two choices,” Zomlot said in his farewell recording, “Either we lose our relationship with the administration, or we lose our rights as a nation. Our president, leadership and the people of Palestine opted for rights.”
“While we are extremely saddened by the current state of affairs, we are firm about our choices and national rights. The issue is not with the U.S. or the American people, the issue is only with the Trump administration,” he said.
Zomlot concluded by promising to continue outreach to Americans despite no longer having his foreign mission, “We vow to double our efforts to strengthen our partnership between the two peoples,” he said.