The Trump administration is expected to announce Monday that it will close the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO)’s office in Washington, The wall Street Journal reported citing administration officials.
President Donald Trump’s national security advisor, John Bolton, is to make the announcement in a midday speech to the Federalist Society, a conservative group, in Washington. It will be his first major address since joining the Trump White House.
“The Trump administration will not keep the office open when the Palestinians refuse to take steps to start direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel,” according to an early draft of Bolton's remarks reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.
Bolton will also say that the State Department will announce the closure of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) office in Washington out of concern about Palestinian attempts to prompt an ICC investigation of Israel.
“The United States will use any means necessary to protect our citizens and those of our allies from unjust prosecution by this illegitimate court,” Bolton will say, according to a draft of his speech seen by Reuters.
The PLO office in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Palestinian authority said it would not be deterred from seeking International Criminal Court action against Israel, an official said on Monday.
Senior official Saeb Erekat said his office had been informed that the United States would close the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) mission, a move he described as designed "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," Erekat said in a statement. "Accordingly, we continue to call upon the International Criminal Court to open its immediate investigation into Israeli crimes."
“The United States will always stand with our friend and ally, Israel,” stresses Bolton’s draft text.
This planned move follows Trump's decision to halt all funding to a UN agency that helps Palestinian refugees while further heightening tensions between the Palestinian leadership and the Trump administration.
US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the business model and fiscal practices of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) made it an "irredeemably flawed operation."
"The administration has carefully reviewed the issue and determined that the United States will not make additional contributions to UNRWA," she said in a statement.
In addition, Bolton's draft speech reportedly says that the Trump administration “will fight back” if the International Criminal Court formally proceeds with opening an investigation into alleged war crimes committed by US service members and intelligence professionals during the war in Afghanistan.
If such a probe proceeds, the Trump administration will consider banning judges and prosecutors from entering the United States, put sanctions on any funds they have in the US financial system and prosecute them in the American court system.
“We will not cooperate with the ICC. We will provide no assistance to the ICC. We will not join the ICC. We will let the ICC die on its own. After all, for all intents and purposes, the ICC is already dead to us,” says Bolton’s draft text.
The Trump administration put the Palestinians on notice in 2017 that it would shutter their office in Washington unless they would enter serious peace talks with Israel, US officials said, potentially giving President Donald Trump more leverage as he sought an elusive Mideast peace deal.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Bolton is planned to say, however, that the Trump administration is still committed to formulate a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.
“The United States supports a direct and robust peace process, and we will not allow the ICC, or any other organization, to constrain Israel’s right to self-defense," according to The Wall Street Journal citing Bolton's planned remarks.
In addition, the United States may negotiate more binding, bilateral agreements to prohibit nations from surrendering Americans to the Hague court, says the text.
The court’s aim is to bring to justice the perpetrators of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.
The United States did not ratify the Rome treaty that established the International Criminal Court in 2002, with then-President George W. Bush opposed to the court. President Barack Obama took some steps to cooperate with the organization.
“We will consider taking steps in the UN Security Council to constrain the court’s sweeping powers, including to ensure that the ICC does not exercise jurisdiction over Americans and the nationals of our allies that have not ratified the Rome Statute,” says Bolton’s draft text.
Meanwhile, NPR reported on Saturday the funds, totalling $25 million, were intended to be transferred to the East Jerusalem Hospital Network, run partly by local churches. He added that the money will be redirected to other aid programs the US runs in the Middle East, Africa and South and East Asia, aimed to fight mass weapons production.