US closes Palestine mission in Washington

US closes Palestine mission in Washington
The Palestine mission in the US closed Thursday, as tensions between Ramallah and Washington continue to heighten.
3 min read
14 September, 2018
The PLO mission in Washington closed on Thursday [AFP]

Palestine's diplomatic mission in the US was closed on Thursday, as tensions between Washington and Ramallah continue to deepen.

The US had demanded the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) mission in Washington cease operations this week, as the two sides continue to clash on key issues regarding a possible peace deal with Israel.

"Today is the deadline," said, Husam Zomlot, head of the PLO mission in Washington, said in a Facebook video addressed to "the great people of America".

He denounced the "unfortunate and vindictive" US move to close the Palestinian mission.

"It was unsurprising to us the Trump administration gave us only two choices: either we lose our relationship with the administration or we lose our rights as a nation," he said.

"Our president, leadership and the people of Palestine opted for our rights."

State Department officials on Monday told Ramallah to close their mission in Washington, as the US tries to pressure the Palestinians into enter peace talks with Israel.

Palestinian officials say that the peace deal is likely to be heavily in favour of Israel's demands.

The measure was the latest by President Donald Trump's administration, who cut off contact with Washington after the US recognised the disputed city of Jerusalem as Israel's capital in December.

Zomlot said the Palestinians were "extremely saddened by the current state of affairs". 

Addressing the "millions upon millions" of Americans who remain friends of Palestine, he hoped that "may we soon return to continue to be a symbol and a reflection of the historic relationship between the Palestinian and the American people".

The US has also cut more than $200 million in aid to the Palestinians and cancelled its support for the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA).

The move to not grant the mission its normal six-month renewal came after the US accused Palestine of breaching an agreement of calling for Israeli officials to be prosecuted at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague.

Palestinian leaders say Trump's White House is blatantly biased in favour of Israel and is seeking to blackmail them into accepting its terms.

Trump has promised to help broker the "ultimate deal" between Israel and the Palestinians, but has since admitted it is more difficult than he initially thought.

"Wait until the peace plan is released, and when it's released, please read it cover to cover and judge the plan on its merits - not on rumours, not on speculation, not on news reports, but on what's in it," one of the US negotiators, Jason Greenblatt, said Thursday on Twitter.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said, however, that the administration is "not ready to unveil" the plan but remains optimistic.

"There needs to be a different kind of approach. Nothing has worked so we're trying a different approach," she said.