U.S.-Palestinian Relationship Under Threat

On Saturday, Palestinian officials threatened to cease communication with the United States if the Trump Administration goes through with plans to close the Palestine Liberation Organization’s (PLO) office in Washington, DC. The U.S. government initially responded by stating this was a regular protocol under U.S. law for renewing the permission of any organization to operate in America. However after an online statement from the PLO, the U.S. State Department confirmed that its actions were directly related to the move Palestinians’ had taken towards Israeli settlement issues by involving the International Criminal Court.

Saeb Erekat, the PLO’s Secretary General, posted a video to his Facebook and Twitter sites stating that the actions of this administration were “very unfortunate and unacceptable… at a time when we are trying to cooperate to achieve the ultimate deal, they take such steps which will undermine the whole peace process.” A White House National Security Council (NSC) spokesperson has said actions do not mean the PLO office will be permanently closed. However, Nabil Abu Rudeina, the spokesperson for the Palestinian presidency, stated the action “represents an unprecedented step in the history of U.S.-Palestinian relations,” and “represents a blow to peacemaking efforts, while rewarding Israel, which is working to obstruct U.S. efforts by persisting with its policy of settlements and its refusal to accept the two-state solution.”

Cutting ties with the U.S. could mean aid cuts for Palestine, and comes at a time where support from the international community is needed to continue trying to resolve tensions with Israel. There is some suggestion that the U.S. government may negatively react to this response by increasing already strong support for Israel. Conversely, the U.S. government should be concerned that it will be seen as facilitating more conflict in this region at a time where they should be trying to improve relations, and have actively said they wish to improve the bond between “moderate Arab allies” against Iran. An unstable Palestine would not be a solid foundation for their Middle Eastern alliances.

The PLO is considered to represent all Palestinian people, which confirms that the affects of the threat move beyond U.S.-Palestinian relations. Palestinians around the world may be impacted by this move, and current negotiations with Israel could be jeopardised. This move by the administration has confirmed Palestine’s suspicions of Trump having close ties with Israel that influence his involvement in the conflict. Under Trump there has been no progress towards peace between Palestine and Israel, with illegal Israeli settlements within Palestinian territories instead expanding. The expansion has been so large that there is a new Israeli settlement being build in the West Bank for the first time in 20 years.

Both sides appear to not be budging as the U.S. government suggests their decision could be changed within 90 days if Palestine enters “into direct, meaningful negotiations with Israel.” However, PLO’s threats suggest they will not be communicating with Israel or the U.S. without the decision being revoked immediately. This event is disappointing for future development of peace for the Gaza Strip conflict that continues with no sign of resolution. Ceasing communication during any conflict is not ideal, as peace and resolution is often constructed out of mutual understanding that can only be reached using consistent and genuine communication. It is important for all the parties involved to stay open and support the opportunity for this communication to occur.

Kate Eager