The White House’s announcement of plans to close down the PLO’s office in Washington intends to block cases that Palestinians have raised against Tel Aviv in the International criminal court. Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat has decried the move as continuation of “collective punishment” by the Trump administration.
On Monday 10th September, the US announced the closure of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) mission in Washington. This comes as the latest in a series of actions by the Trump administration against the Palestinians, which include:
- The relocation of the US embassy from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem in May. Thereby formally recognising Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel, despite longstanding Palestinian claims to East Jerusalem as their capital.
- A funding freeze in August of $300 million to UNRWA, the UN agency responsible for providing healthcare, education, and food to Palestinian refugees.
- Further funding freezes in August and September of $200 million in aid to Gaza and the West Bank and $25 million to hospitals mainly caring for Palestinians.
According to the US, this latest action is in response to the PLO’s efforts to prolong the peace process. The Trump administration claims they have done this citing two examples. Firstly, their refusal to ‘engage with the US government with respect to peace efforts’ since the relocation of the US embassy. Secondly through ‘Palestinian attempts to prompt an investigation of Israel by the International Criminal Court (ICC).’
However, given the relocation of the US embassy in May and following cuts to Palestinian aid, it seems the US themselves are not interested in “direct and meaningful negotiations”. This move is one of many, to weaken Palestine’s position at the negotiating table when the US announces its peace plan later in the year.
What can Palestine do?
Undoubtedly, Palestine must increase its leverage by responding to these US actions effectively. Taking the issue to international organisations may be a part of this, but non-violent action needs to take place within the region as well.
The effectiveness of the use of the ICC to help resolve this issue is questionable, this because of the US and Israel both being non-signatories; because of US threats to sanction the ICC; and because the organisation is not particularly well respected worldwide. Other organisations such as the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), which is generally held in higher regard, may be more effective arenas at which to make a stand. However, this is still questionable given the US’ current isolationist foreign policy. This policy sees a trend in the US departing from international institutions, including its withdrawal from the UNHRC. Despite that, other countries who still respect such international frameworks could put pressure on the US and Israel.
However, action must also come from within the region for Palestinians to really increase their leverage. This should come in the form of non-violent protest. The effect of this would: help unite Palestinians; raise the importance of the issue on the world agenda; and raise the importance of the issue for the people of Israel who could themselves put greater pressure on Netanyahu.
Although this would have to be non-violent. Violence on the part of Palestinians would only escalate causing huge unnecessary destruction and undermine Palestine’s position. As Palestine does not have the economic and military might of Israel it must retain the moral high ground.
The Trump administration’s most recent action does not contribute towards establishing a fair peace for the Israel-Palestine situation. Palestine must continue to fight for its cause in non-violent ways.
The NCF Secretary General talks about the issue of the White House action against Palestine on Press TV.