State keeps PLO's office in DC open

The State Department has decided to keep the Palestinian Liberation Organization's (PLO) office in Washington open for another six months despite anti-terrorism legislation making it illegal, according to regulatory documents filed Tuesday.

Administrations of both parties have waived the provisions of the 1987 Anti-Terrorism Act since President Clinton started doing so in 1994, citing U.S. national-security interests. The waiver is particularly controversial this time, however, because the PLO obtained the status of an observer state at the United Nations in November despite bitter opposition from the United States and Israel.

“I hereby determine and certify that the Palestinians have not, since the date of enactment of that Act, obtained in the U.N. or any specialized agency thereof the same standing as member states or full membership as a state outside an agreement negotiated between Israel and the Palestinians,” Deputy Secretary of State William Burns wrote in a State Department notice posted Tuesday. The notice is dated Oct. 8, before the U.N. vote.

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Both parties' leaders on the House Foreign Affairs Committee sent President Obama a letter in December urging him to close the PLO's Washington office in retaliation.

“One important way of expressing U.S. disapproval would be to send the message that such actions are not cost-free and that, at a minimum, they result in setbacks to U.S.-Palestinian relations,” they wrote. “We can do this by closing the PLO office in Washington, D.C. We can also call our consul-general in Jerusalem home for consultations. We urge you to take these steps.”

The letter was spearheaded by the incoming chairman and ranking member on the committee, Reps. Ed Royce (R-Calif.) and Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), as well as outgoing leaders Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) and Howard Berman (D-Calif.).