Israel poll results ‘thwart prospects for peace’: PLO

            By Qais Abu Samra<br>

RAMALLAH, Palestine (AA) – The results of Tuesday’s general election in Israel will only serve to “thwart prospects for peace”, according to Hanan Ashrawi, a prominent member of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO)’s Executive Committee.

In a Wednesday statement, the veteran Palestinian politician asserted that the poll results had confirmed Israel’s “refusal to countenance a Palestinian state”.

In Tuesday’s poll, a right-wing coalition led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party captured a majority of seats in the Knesset (Israel’s parliament), according to preliminary results released Wednesday.

Ashrawi said that poll results had confirmed “the persistence of [Israeli] racism and extremism”, adding that Israeli voters had “opted for the current policy of murder, [land] annexation and theft”.

<p>Israeli citizens, Ashrawi said, had voted in favor of “persecuting the Palestinian people and violating their rights”.<br>

Netanyahu, she continued, “will continue his extremist and militant agenda with the open support of the U.S. administration”.

Ashrawi concluded by stressing the Palestinian people's insistence on securing their land and legitimate rights and their continued rejection of “dubious schemes and deals”.

According to preliminary results cited by Israeli daily Haaretz, Netanyahu’s Likud-led coalition captured 65 seats in the 120-member Knesset.

Initial results gave Likud 35 Knesset seats; United Torah Judaism and the Shas Party eight seats each; Yisrael Beiteinu five seats; the Union of Right-Wing Parties five seats; and the Kulanu Party four seats.

Likud’s main rival, Benny Gantz’s Blue and White Party, meanwhile, clinched 35 seats in the assembly.

With the exception of Labor and Meretz, Israeli political parties reject the notion of an independent Palestinian state and oppose any attempt to end Israel’s decades-long occupation of the West Bank and ongoing blockade of the Gaza Strip.

US revokes residency of Palestinian envoy

By Qays Abu Samra and Zeynep Hilal Karyagdi

RAMALLAH, Palestine (AA) – Washington has revoked the residency permit of Husam Zomlot, head of the Palestine Liberation Organization's (PLO) General Delegation to the U.S.

The U.S. also cancelled the residency permit of Zomlot's family members and closed his bank accounts, Ahmad Majdalani, a member of the Executive Committee of the PLO, told Anadolu Agency.

The move came after the U.S. administration announced the closure of the PLO's Washington office, which also serves as a Palestinian embassy.

Majdalani said Washington's decisions did not fit with "diplomatic manners."

Wasel Abu Yousef, a PLO executive committee member, said that Zomlot has been in Ramallah for four months when he was recalled by the Palestinian authorities.

Yousef also condemned the decision by the U.S.

Recently, the U.S. cancelled all funding to UNRWA, the UN’s cash-strapped Palestinian refugee agency.

The decision also comes as the U.S. administration prepares to unveil a controversial Middle East peace plan, details of which have yet to be made public.

Palestinian officials, however, have rejected any U.S. role in the peace process since U.S. President Donald Trump unilaterally recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital last year.

OIC calls on US to reverse decision to close PLO office

JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia (AA) – The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) on Wednesday called on the U.S. to reverse its recent decision to close the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO)’s office in Washington.

In a statement, the OIC said the U.S. decision “does not serve the cause of peace… and undermines efforts to reach a two-state solution” to the decades-long Israel-Palestine conflict.

In the same statement, the OIC’s general-secretariat reiterated its support for the PLO, describing the latter as the “sole and legitimate representative of the Palestinian people in their efforts to find a just and comprehensive solution to the Palestinian question”.

On Monday, the U.S. administration announced the closure of the PLO’s Washington office, which also serves as a Palestinian embassy.

Notably, the move came shortly after the U.S. cancelled all funding to UNRWA, the UN’s cash-strapped Palestinian refugee agency.

The decision also comes as the U.S. administration prepares to unveil a controversial Middle East peace plan, details of which have yet to be made public.

Palestinian officials, however, have rejected any U.S. role in the peace process since U.S. President Donald Trump unilaterally recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital last year.

UPDATE 2 – 'Attack on Idlib to sabotage ongoing political process’

UPDATES WITH MORE QUOTES FROM KALIN

ANKARA (AA) – A possible attack on Syria’s northwestern province of Idlib will sabotage the ongoing political process and cause a serious crisis of confidence, the Turkish presidential spokesman said on Tuesday.

Ibrahim Kalin’s remarks came after a Cabinet meeting chaired by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the presidential complex.

Since the beginning of this month, at least 30 civilians have been killed in Idlib and Hama — and dozens injured — by airstrikes and attacks by the regime and Russian warplanes, according to the White Helmets civil defense agency.

The Syrian regime recently announced plans to launch a major military offensive in Idlib, which remains under the control of various armed opposition groups.

Last week, the UN warned that such an offensive would likely lead to the “worst humanitarian catastrophe of the 21st century”.

Kalin said Turkey expects all parties to make “constructive” contributions and agree on a political solution on Syria.

He urged the West including the U.S. to join hands in stopping a possible attack on Idlib.

Earlier on Tuesday, Turkish Foreign Ministry said that the representatives of guarantor countries — Turkey, Russia, and Iran – met UN Special Envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura on Sept. 10-11 in Geneva.

“During the meeting, they discussed the formation of a constitutional committee and its codes of practice which constitute an important step in the struggle of finding a political solution to the Syrian crisis," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

– US move on closing PLO office in Washington

On the U.S. administration’s recent decision to close the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) office in Washington, Kalin said that any solution, which does not recognize the will of Palestinians, is not plausible.

He said that it is unacceptable for Palestinians to be exposed to isolation or an embargo for any reason.

The U.S. move comes in ostensible retaliation for efforts by the Palestinian leadership to have crimes allegedly committed by Israel prosecuted by The Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC).

– Economy

Speaking about the Turkish economy, Kalin said there was no panic and apparent turbulence will be over soon.

The announcement of Medium Term Program in coming weeks will jot down a critical roadmap for the economy, he added.

The Turkish lira has been losing its value against the U.S. dollar for the past several weeks after the U.S. president doubled tariffs on Turkish steel and aluminum.

The Turkish economy grew by 5.2 percent in the second quarter of this year compared with the same period last year, the country's statistical authority announced Monday.

Turkey topped the list among Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) member countries and came second among EU members who have so far announced their annual growth performances in the second quarter.

UPDATE – 'Attack on Idlib to sabotage ongoing political process’

UPDATES WITH MORE QUOTES FROM KALIN

ANKARA (AA) – A possible attack on Syria’s northwestern province of Idlib will sabotage the ongoing political process and cause a serious crisis of confidence, the Turkish presidential spokesman said on Tuesday.

Ibrahim Kalin’s remarks came after a Cabinet meeting chaired by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the presidential complex.

Since the beginning of this month, at least 30 civilians have been killed in Idlib and Hama — and dozens injured — by airstrikes and attacks by the regime and Russian warplanes, according to the White Helmets civil defense agency.

The Syrian regime recently announced plans to launch a major military offensive in Idlib, which remains under the control of various armed opposition groups.
Last week, the UN warned that such an offensive would likely lead to the “worst humanitarian catastrophe of the 21st century”.

Kalin said Turkey expects all parties to make “constructive” contributions and agree on a political solution on Syria.

He urged the West including the U.S. to join hands in stopping a possible attack on Idlib.

Earlier on Tuesday, Turkish Foreign Ministry said that the representatives of guarantor countries — Turkey, Russia, and Iran – met UN Special Envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura on Sept. 10-11 in Geneva.

“During the meeting, they discussed the formation of a constitutional committee and its codes of practice which constitute an important step in the struggle of finding a political solution to the Syrian crisis," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

– US move on closing PLO office in Washington

On the U.S. administration’s recent decision to close the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) office in Washington, Kalin said that any solution, which does not recognize the will of Palestinians is not plausible.

He said that it is unacceptable for Palestinians to be exposed to isolation or an embargo for any reason.

The U.S. move comes in ostensible retaliation for efforts by the Palestinian leadership to have crimes allegedly committed by Israel prosecuted by The Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC).

Arab League slams US closure of PLO diplomatic mission

CAIRO (AA) – The Arab League on Tuesday decried a U.S. decision to close the diplomatic mission of the umbrella Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in Washington, saying the move undermines the Palestinian cause.

"Since the declaration of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in December 2017 and the relocation of its embassy to Jerusalem this May, the current U.S. administration has been showing its full bias to the Israeli agenda," the Cairo-based league said in a statement.

On Monday, the U.S. State Department announced the closure of the PLO diplomatic mission, which served as the de facto embassy for Palestine in Washington.

Last month, the U.S. administration cut all the finding for the UN agency for Palestinian refugees UNRWA.

The Arab League said the US aid cuts “aim to compromise the Palestinian will, which reflects a misreading of [the situation]”.

It rejected accusations to the Palestinians of being opponents to efforts aimed to make peace with Israel.

“No specific or applicable proposals have been presented to the Palestinians,” the statement said.

The Palestinian Authority has rejected any U.S. mediation since Trump officially recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Jerusalem remains at the heart of the Israel-Palestine conflict, with Palestinians hoping that East Jerusalem — now occupied by Israel — might eventually serve as the capital of a Palestinian state.

UPDATE 4 – US shutters Palestine Liberation Organization's mission

ADDS PLO REPRESENTATIVE CONDEMNATION IN GRAPHS 17-20

By Michael Hernandez

WASHINGTON (AA) – The U.S. on Monday announced the closure of the Palestine Liberation Organization's (PLO) Washington diplomatic mission as the Donald Trump administration prepares to roll out its Middle East peace plan.

The State Department announced the decision, saying "the PLO office in Washington will close at this point." The office had served as Palestine's de facto embassy in Washington.

The department said "the PLO has not taken steps to advance the start of direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel," and pointed to Palestinian calls for the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate Israel as reasons for its decision.

"We have permitted the PLO office to conduct operations that support the objective of achieving a lasting, comprehensive peace between Israelis and the Palestinians since the expiration of a previous waiver in November 2017," State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement.

"However, the PLO has not taken steps to advance the start of direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel. To the contrary, PLO leadership has condemned a U.S. peace plan they have not yet seen and refused to engage with the U.S. government with respect to peace efforts and otherwise," she added.

Another State Department spokeswoman later said the mission was ordered to vacate its office no later than Oct. 10.

Mark Perry, a former unofficial advisor to late PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat, ripped Washington's announcement, saying "the U.S. has always been Israel's lawyer."

"Ironically, the announcement is actually good news — as it ends the pretense that the U.S. actually cares about peace in the Middle East," Perry told Anadolu Agency.

"The U.S. is now perfectly aligned with the Israeli national project. Israel does not now, and never has, believed in the peace process or sought reconciliation with the Palestinians," he said. "Rather, its goal is the destruction of the Palestinian national project. What changed today is that the U.S. has now joined that effort."

National Security Advisor John Bolton later Monday said Washington will act if the ICC decides to prosecute Israel, the U.S. or any of its other allies.

Those actions include potential sanctions of ICC funds residing in the U.S., as well as a ban on ICC prosecutors and judges from entering the U.S.

"We will take note if any countries cooperate with ICC investigations of the United States and its allies, and we will remember that cooperation when setting U.S. foreign assistance, military assistance, and intelligence sharing levels," Bolton said.

“We will let the ICC die on its own, after all, for all intents and purposes the ICC is already dead to us,” he added.

The comments comes as the Trump administration prepares to roll out its plan to achieve a peace between Palestine and Israel, a deal that Trump has framed as the "deal of the century."

Palestinian officials continue to deny any role for the U.S. in peace talks with Israel after Trump unilaterally declared Jerusalem to be Israel's capital last year, upending long-held underpinnings of peace talks which had maintained the issue was to be determined as part of final status negotiations.

The decision provoked worldwide condemnation.

Husam Zomlot, the PLO's U.S. ambassador, strongly condemned the decision to shutter the organization's offices as a "reckless act" that ultimately confirms that the U.S. "is blindly executing Israel’s 'wish list,' which starts with shutting down Palestinian diplomatic representation in the US."

Zomlot insisted the U.S. action would not deter Palestine in its mission "to hold Israel accountable by referring it to the International Criminal Court," or force Ramallah to return to a U.S.-brokered negotiations.

"We stand firm in our decision not to cooperate in this ongoing campaign to liquidate our rights and cause. Our rights are not for sale and we will block any attempts at bullying and blackmailing us to forgo our legitimate and internationally endorsed rights," he said in a statement.

"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," he added.

Prior to the formal announcement of the mission's closure, Palestinian officials described the move as “an escalation that will have serious political consequences by sabotaging the entire international system in order to protect the Israeli occupation and its crimes.”

“This is another blow by the Trump administration against peace and justice," said PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat.

The decision to close the Palestinian mission 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.

UPDATE 3 – US shutters Palestine Liberation Organization's mission

ADDS STATE DEPT. SPOKESWOMAN ON DATE OF CLOSURE IN GRAF 6

By Michael Hernandez

WASHINGTON (AA) – The U.S. on Monday announced the closure of the Palestine Liberation Organization's (PLO) Washington diplomatic mission as the Donald Trump administration prepares to roll out its Middle East peace plan.

The State Department announced the decision, saying "the PLO office in Washington will close at this point." The office had served as Palestine's de facto embassy in Washington.

The department said "the PLO has not taken steps to advance the start of direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel," and pointed to Palestinian calls for the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate Israel as reasons for its decision.

"We have permitted the PLO office to conduct operations that support the objective of achieving a lasting, comprehensive peace between Israelis and the Palestinians since the expiration of a previous waiver in November 2017," State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement.

"However, the PLO has not taken steps to advance the start of direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel. To the contrary, PLO leadership has condemned a U.S. peace plan they have not yet seen and refused to engage with the U.S. government with respect to peace efforts and otherwise," she added.

Another State Department spokeswoman later said the mission was ordered to vacate its office no later than Oct. 10.

Mark Perry, a former unofficial advisor to late PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat, ripped Washington's announcement, saying "the U.S. has always been Israel's lawyer."

"Ironically, the announcement is actually good news — as it ends the pretense that the U.S. actually cares about peace in the Middle East," Perry told Anadolu Agency.

"The U.S. is now perfectly aligned with the Israeli national project. Israel does not now, and never has, believed in the peace process or sought reconciliation with the Palestinians," he said. "Rather, its goal is the destruction of the Palestinian national project. What changed today is that the U.S. has now joined that effort."

National Security Advisor John Bolton later Monday said Washington will act if the ICC decides to prosecute Israel, the U.S. or any of its other allies.

Those actions include potential sanctions of ICC funds residing in the U.S., as well as a ban on ICC prosecutors and judges from entering the U.S.

"We will take note if any countries cooperate with ICC investigations of the United States and its allies, and we will remember that cooperation when setting U.S. foreign assistance, military assistance, and intelligence sharing levels," Bolton said.

“We will let the ICC die on its own, after all, for all intents and purposes the ICC is already dead to us,” he added.

The comments come as the Trump administration prepares to roll out its plan to achieve a peace between Palestine and Israel, a deal that Trump has framed as the "deal of the century."

Palestinian officials continue to deny any role for the U.S. in peace talks with Israel after Trump unilaterally declared Jerusalem to be Israel's capital last year, upending long-held underpinnings of peace talks which had maintained the issue was to be determined as part of final status negotiations.

The decision provoked worldwide condemnation.

Prior to the formal announcement of the mission's closure, Palestinian officials described the move as “an escalation that will have serious political consequences by sabotaging the entire international system in order to protect the Israeli occupation and its crimes.”

“This is another blow by the Trump administration against peace and justice," said PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat.

The decision to close the Palestinian mission 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.

UPDATE 2 – US shutters Palestine Liberation Organization's mission

ADDS BOLTON COMMENTS, BACKGROUND ON US ACTIONS

By Michael Hernandez

WASHINGTON (AA) – The U.S. on Monday announced the closure of the Palestine Liberation Organization's (PLO) Washington diplomatic mission as the Donald Trump administration prepares to roll out its Middle East peace plan.

The State Department announced the decision, saying "the PLO office in Washington will close at this point." The office had served as Palestine's de facto embassy in Washington.

The department said "the PLO has not taken steps to advance the start of direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel," and pointed to Palestinian calls for the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate Israel as reasons for its decision.

"We have permitted the PLO office to conduct operations that support the objective of achieving a lasting, comprehensive peace between Israelis and the Palestinians since the expiration of a previous waiver in November 2017," State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement.

"However, the PLO has not taken steps to advance the start of direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel. To the contrary, PLO leadership has condemned a U.S. peace plan they have not yet seen and refused to engage with the U.S. government with respect to peace efforts and otherwise," she added.

Mark Perry, a former unofficial advisor to late PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat, ripped Washington's announcement, saying "the U.S. has always been Israel's lawyer."

"Ironically, the announcement is actually good news — as it ends the pretense that the U.S. actually cares about peace in the Middle East," Perry told Anadolu Agency.

"The U.S. is now perfectly aligned with the Israeli national project. Israel does not now, and never has, believed in the peace process or sought reconciliation with the Palestinians," he said. "Rather, its goal is the destruction of the Palestinian national project. What changed today is that the U.S. has now joined that effort."

National Security Advisor John Bolton later Monday said Washington will act if the ICC decides to prosecute Israel, the U.S. or any of its other allies.

Those actions include potential sanctions of ICC funds residing in the U.S., as well as a ban on ICC prosecutors and judges from entering the U.S.

"We will take note if any countries cooperate with ICC investigations of the United States and its allies, and we will remember that cooperation when setting U.S. foreign assistance, military assistance, and intelligence sharing levels," Bolton said.

“We will let the ICC die on its own, after all, for all intents and purposes the ICC is already dead to us,” he added.

The comments come as the Trump administration prepares to roll out its plan to achieve a peace between Palestine and Israel, a deal that Trump has framed as the "deal of the century."

Palestinian officials continue to deny any role for the U.S. in peace talks with Israel after Trump unilaterally declared Jerusalem to be Israel's capital last year, upending long-held underpinnings of peace talks which had maintained the issue was to be determined as part of final status negotiations.

The decision provoked worldwide condemnation.

Prior to the formal announcement of the mission's closure, Palestinian officials described the move as “an escalation that will have serious political consequences by sabotaging the entire international system in order to protect the Israeli occupation and its crimes.”

“This is another blow by the Trump administration against peace and justice," said PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat.

The decision to close the Palestinian mission 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.

UPDATE – US shutters Palestine Liberation Organization's mission

ADDS DETAILS THROUGHOUT

By Michael Hernandez

WASHINGTON (AA) – The U.S. on Monday announced the closure of the Palestine Liberation Organization's (PLO) Washington diplomatic mission as the Donald Trump administration prepares to roll out its Middle East peace plan.

The State Department announced the decision, saying "the PLO office in Washington will close at this point." The office had served as Palestine's de facto embassy in Washington.

The department said "the PLO has not taken steps to advance the start of direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel," and pointed to Palestinian calls for the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate Israel as reasons for its decision.

"We have permitted the PLO office to conduct operations that support the objective of achieving a lasting, comprehensive peace between Israelis and the Palestinians since the expiration of a previous waiver in November 2017," State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement.

"However, the PLO has not taken steps to advance the start of direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel. To the contrary, PLO leadership has condemned a U.S. peace plan they have not yet seen and refused to engage with the U.S. government with respect to peace efforts and otherwise," she added.

Mark Perry, a former unofficial advisor to late PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat, ripped Washington's announcement, saying "the U.S. has always been Israel's lawyer."

"Ironically, the announcement is actually good news — as it ends the pretense that the U.S. actually cares about peace in the Middle East," Perry told Anadolu Agency.

"The U.S. is now perfectly aligned with the Israeli national project. Israel does not now, and never has, believed in the peace process or sought reconciliation with the Palestinians," he said. "Rather, its goal is the destruction of the Palestinian national project. What changed today is that the U.S. has now joined that effort."

National Security Advisor John Bolton is expected to address the decision during a speech before a conservative group in the nation's capital later Monday.

Palestinian officials continue to deny any role for the U.S. in peace talks with Israel after Trump unilaterally declared Jerusalem to be Israel's capital last year, upending long-held underpinnings of peace talks which had maintained the issue was to be determined as part of final status negotiations.

The decision provoked worldwide condemnation.

Prior to the formal announcement of the mission's closure, Palestinian officials described the move as “an escalation that will have serious political consequences by sabotaging the entire international system in order to protect the Israeli occupation and its crimes.”

“This is another blow by the Trump administration against peace and justice," said PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat.