By Umar Farooq
WASHINGTON (AA) – The Trump administration’s decision to shut down the Palestinian mission in Washington, DC is by no means surprising, according to analysts, who say the move disqualifies America as a legitimate broker of peace in the region.
The decision to close the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) office is the latest effort to ramp up pressure on Ramallah. The U.S. has already halted all funding to the UN's Palestine refugee agency and cut more than $200 million in aid to the Palestinians.
Omar Baddar, deputy director of the Arab-American Institute in Washington, told Anadolu Agency the administration asserted that it does not see the Palestinians as equal to Israelis.
"What they're doing with taking away the Palestinian office in DC is that they're ending the pretense that they care what the Palestinians think," said Baddar.
The PLO office, which served as the de facto embassy for Palestine in Washington, had been threatened with closure before.
Last November, the State Department said that then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had the option not to renew a certification for their office in retaliation against Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who had called on the UN to prosecute Israeli officials at the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against the Palestinians.
"While today is a dark day for peace in the Middle East, for multilateralism, and the integrity of the international political and legal system, we will continue our struggle to pursue all possible legal and political means to achieve peace, independence and our internationally enshrined rights," Husam Zomlot, the PLO's U.S. ambassador, said in response to the closure.
The experts that spoke to Anadolu Agency all emphasized the same point: that the U.S. is no longer willing to use diplomacy to address the Israeli-Palestinian issue.
"It seems like the administration is right now engaged in this childish tit-for-tat relationship with the PLO and trying to pressure the Palestinian leadership to accept a diktat from Washington with regards to a peace process that doesn't exist," Khalil Jahshan, executive director of the Arab Center in Washington, DC, told Anadolu Agency.
"All these steps are meant to pressure the Palestinian leadership to obey, if you will, orders from the peace team at the White House."
Yet even though the announcement to close the PLO office does not come as a surprise to many, it is still an unfortunate outcome of a long-contested matter in the history of U.S. foreign policy.
"It's ill-timed, it's unwise, and instead of isolating the Palestinian side, I have a feeling that it's actually isolating the United States of America, and it's definitely disqualifying the United States in the future from mediating any peace efforts in the region," Jahshan said.
While in the past, the U.S. administration has been vocal in showing support for both sides, the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump has been taking firm steps to move away from Palestine and place themselves fully in the Israeli camp.
Another example of this is the decision of the U.S. to leave the UN Human Rights Council, citing its “bias towards Israel” as their reason.
"The fact that this administration is no longer willing to play a diplomatic game — put that with the fact that their demands are even more egregious than the compliant Palestinian leadership is willing to accept — is what is demonstrative of this break," said Noura Erakat, professor at George Mason University and an expert on Israeli-Palestine relations.
The closure of the PLO office is one of many, although not the last, steps the U.S. has taken to impose a solution on the Palestinians rather than include them in the process.
"It just makes the entire process more transparent and honest [regarding the U.S. position] and emphasizes, yet again, the need to internationalize this question," Erakat added.