American Palestinians open homes to PLO delegation amid threat to close US office

A woman walks past the Palestine Liberation Organization office in Washington on November 19, 2017. (REUTERS/Yuri Gripas)
Updated 20 November 2017
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American Palestinians open homes to PLO delegation amid threat to close US office

AMMAN: Palestinian Americans have offered to open their homes to the Palestinian delegation in Washington if the US government follows through on its threat to close the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) mission.

A meeting of the Palestinian community in New Jersey turned into a public vote of confidence in the work of the delegation, those attending told Arab News.

Khader El-Yateem, pastor of the Salam Arabic Lutheran Church and a Palestinian community leader in Brooklyn, made the accommodation offer to Husam Zomlot, head of the Palestinian delegation in the US.

“We told Ambassador Zomlot that the homes of half a million Palestinian Americans and many others will be open to him and his staff if the US decides to permanently close the PLO mission in Washington, D.C.,” El-Yateem told Arab News.

Despite the closure threat, the PLO office in Washington, D.C. was functioning normally on Monday morning. Under US law, for the office to operate the Secretary of State must certify every six months that the PLO has complied with conditions imposed by Congress. The latest six-month period finished last Thursday.

The State Department said permission was not renewed because of a speech by President Mahmoud Abbas at the UN General Assembly in September, in which he suggested taking the issue of Israeli settlements to the International Criminal Court. The threat of closure is also aimed at persuading the Palestinians to enter talks with Israel within 90 days.

“This is a typical example of the blackmail and extortion that the US-Israeli alliance has exercised against the Palestinians since the beginning of the so-called ‘peace process’ over a quarter of a century ago,” Rashid Khalidi, the Edward Said Professor of Modern Arab Studies at Columbia University, told Arab News.

Professor Khalidi called on Palestinians to depart from the “endless hamster wheel” and admit that the temporary solutions of the Oslo Accords had failed. “The Palestinians should treat the US as what it is, a dishonest broker that is the closest ally of Israel. They should only agree to enter negotiations under neutral international auspices, and on the basis of all relevant UN resolutions, going back to those of 1947 and 1948,” he said.

In Palestine, Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the PLO executive committee, said: “Instead of holding Israel liable for its persistent violations of international law and conventions, the US administration and Congress are threatening to punish the Palestinian people because of statements made by President Mahmoud Abbas at the United Nations, and by other leaders, pertaining to ICC accountability for Israel and for its war crimes in Palestine.

“It is ironic that the US is taking steps to punish the victim and not the perpetrator of the crime.”

The PLO continued to be placed on probation and unfairly judged while Israel was given preferential treatment and license to act with impunity, Ashrawi said. “If President Donald Trump decides not to renew the waiver after 90 days, the US will embolden Israel even further and provide it with greater cover for its lack of compliance and unilateral actions.”


Iran faces ‘strongest sanctions in history’

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Updated 22 May 2018
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Iran faces ‘strongest sanctions in history’

  • US Secretary of State laid out Trump administration’s strategy for constraining Iran’s nuclear program
  • US threatens "strongest sanctions in history" if Iranian government does not change course

WASHINGTON: The US told Iran on Monday to drop its nuclear ambitions and pull out of the Syrian civil war in a list of demands that marked a new hard-line against Tehran and prompted an Iranian official to warn that Washington seeks regime change.

Weeks after US President Donald Trump pulled out of an international nuclear deal with Iran, his administration threatened to impose “the strongest sanctions in history,” setting Washington and Tehran on a deeper course of confrontation.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo demanded sweeping changes that would force Iran effectively to reverse years of its foreign policies.

“The sting of sanctions will only grow more painful if the regime does not change course from the unacceptable and unproductive path it has chosen for itself and the people of Iran,” Pompeo said in his first major speech since becoming secretary of state.

“These will be the strongest sanctions in history by the time we are done,” he added.

Pompeo took aim at Iran’s policy of expanding its influence in the Middle East through support for proxy armed groups in countries such as Syria, Lebanon and Yemen.

He warned that the US would “crush” Iranian operatives and allies abroad and told Tehran to pull out forces under its command from the Syrian civil war where they back President Bashar Assad.

Iran is unlikely to accede to the US demands. Tension between the two countries has grown notably since Trump this month withdrew from the 2015 nuclear agreement aimed at preventing Tehran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

Pompeo warned that if Iran fully resumed its nuclear program Washington would be ready to respond and said the administration would hold companies doing prohibited business in Iran to account.

“Our demands on Iran are not unreasonable: Give up your program,” Pompeo said, “Should they choose to go back, should they begin to enrich, we are fully prepared to respond to that as well,” he said, declining to elaborate.

Pompeo said if Iran made major changes, the US was prepared to ease sanctions, re-establish full diplomatic and commercial relations and support the country’s re-integration into the international economic system.

The speech did not explicitly call for regime change but Pompeo repeatedly urged the Iranian people not to put up with their leaders, specifically naming President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

“At the end of the day the Iranian people will get to make a choice about their leadership. If they make the decision quickly, that would be wonderful, if they choose not to do so we will stay hard at this until we achieve the outcomes I set forward,” said Pompeo.