United States changes course, allows PLO office to remain open

The UN and the Palestinian question a timeline

Despite last week's threats, the US State Department announced that it will allow the Palestinian Liberation Organization to keep its Washington office open under certain limitations. A recent poll by the Jerusalem Media and Communications Center found that while a majority of Palestinians support negotiations with Israel in principle, almost 80 percent believe that Trump is "not serious" about renewing negotiations.Then a week ago, the U.S. government withdrew its approval for the existence of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) office in Washington unless the PLO engages in significant negotiations within 90 days.

He also said the restrictions will be lifted after 90 days if the USA determines the Israelis and Palestinians are engaged in serious peace talks.

"We, therefore, are optimistic that at the end of this 90-day period, the political process may be sufficiently advanced that the president will be in a position to allow the PLO office to resume full operations", Vasquez said.

In a legal requirement enacted in 2015, the United States can not allow the Palestinians to have a Washington office if they support investigations of Israeli nationals for alleged crimes in Palestine.

Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki has said the USA decision "would hamper any hopes Washington has of brokering a Middle East peace deal".

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After U.S. officials announced plans last week to close the mission, the Palestinians said the Trump administration was using "extortion" tactics, in an apparent attempt to force peace talks with Israel. And he said the Palestinians are "trying to cooperate to achieve the ultimate deal".

Netanyahu's office said at the time that the closure was a "matter of USA law". A provision of the United States law requires the PLO office to close if Palestinians back the ICC's move to investigate or prosecute Israelis. The United Nations considers the PLO to be the "sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people".

Meanwhile, he accused the U.S. administration of "blackmailing" and attempting to punish the Palestinian people. Although the US does not recognize Palestinian statehood, the PLO maintains a "general delegation" office in Washington that facilitates Palestinian officials' interactions with the USA government.

The diplomatic mission has been present in Washington since 1994. The US move clearly looked like an effort to pressure Palestinians into negotiations, without any similar public pressure on Israel. But Trump's team, led by Kushner, is working to broker a deal aimed at settling the intractable conflict. The Nov. 29 anniversary of 70 years since the United Nations voted to divide Palestine into a Jewish state and an Arab one is a reminder of how long this conflict has endured without a resolution.Neither hardened cynicism nor naive optimism will improve the lives of Palestinians and Israelis, so let us give the Washington outsiders a chance.

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