US reverses, says Palestinians can keep DC office open

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The U.S. will allow the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s (PLO) office in Washington to remain open, despite threatening last week to shutter it.

According to a State Department spokesperson, the office will be allowed to stay open with certain limitations, including that the PLO’s activities there be “related to achieving a lasting, comprehensive peace between the Israelis and Palestinians.”

“Given the lapse last week of a waiver of statutory restrictions on PLO activity in the United States, we have advised the PLO Office to limit its activities to those related to achieving a lasting, comprehensive peace between the Israelis and Palestinians,” the spokesperson said.

The Trump administration could lift the restrictions after 90 days if peace talks have begun between the Palestinians and the Israelis, the spokesperson said, adding that the State Department is “optimistic” that by that time “the political process may be sufficiently advanced that the President will be in a position to allow the PLO office to resume full operations.”

The Associated Press first reported that the Trump administration would allow the PLO office to remain open with certain restrictions.


Last week, the Trump administration warned that it would close the PLO’s Washington office unless the U.S. determined that the Palestinians had entered into serious peace talks with Israel.

The threat came after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson declared the Palestinians in violation of a U.S. law requiring the PLO to shutter its D.C. office if the Palestinians call on the International Criminal Court (ICC) to prosecute Israelis.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas apparently crossed that line in September by calling on the ICC to investigate and charge Israelis for alleged crimes against Palestinians.

After the secretary of State determines the Palestinians to be in violation of that law, the administration has 90 days to determine whether “direct and meaningful negotiations” have begun between the Palestinians and Israelis.

The president can waive the requirement that the PLO close its office only if he can certify to Congress that peace talks are underway.

Trump has vowed to broker a peace deal between the Israelis and Palestinians — a task that has baffled presidents with more experience in the Middle East than the real estate mogul.

The State Department spokesperson told The Hill on Friday that the notion of closing the office was not intended to give the Trump administration leverage in negotiations, adding that the U.S. has been engaged in “constructive discussions” with the Palestinians.

— Updated at 9:24 p.m.

Tags Palestinian Liberation Organization Rex Tillerson

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