The US is to close the Palestinian embassy in Washington in a move designed to pressure the Palestinian leadership to abandon its campaign against Israel in the International Criminal Court (ICC).
A senior Palestinian official said that his office was informed of the US decision while adding that the America’s had taken this step to “ protect Israeli crimes”.
“We reiterate that the rights of the Palestinian people are not for sale, that we will not succumb to US threats and bullying,” said Saeb Erekat, senior Palestinian diplomat. “Accordingly, we continue to call upon the International Criminal Court to open its immediate investigation into Israeli crimes,” he added.
Erekat’s remarks confirmed reports that Trump’s senior advisor, John Bolton, will announce the White House’s decision later today in a speech. He is also set to threaten the ICC with sanctions if it investigates the US and Israel.
“The Trump administration will not keep the office open when the Palestinians refuse to start direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel,” Bolton is expected to say.
Palestinians have denounced the decision as a “dangerous escalation”. They said that it was “yet another affirmation of the Trump administration’s policy to collectively punish the Palestinian people, including by cutting financial support for humanitarian services including health and education.”
Last month the US cut all it’s funding for the United Nations’ agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA). In cutting some $350 million a year, more than a quarter of the agency’s $1.2 billion annual budget, the US forced the agency to shut many of its hospitals, schools and the various vital services it provides to nearly six million refugees.
Trump admitted that the cuts to vital services were intended to force Palestinians into adopting the American peace plan, which is said to fall way short of meeting the minimum rights guaranteed to Palestinians under international law.
The move follows US concerns over attempts by Palestinian officials to have Israel investigated for war crimes at the ICC in The Hague.