Palestine mission still open despite US threats to close it

This Nov. 18, 2017 file photo shows the Washington office of the Palestine Liberation Organization. (AP)
Updated 11 September 2018
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Palestine mission still open despite US threats to close it

  • The US is engaged in an attempt to neuter or dismantle the Palestinian movement
  • Palestinians are making major headway in the international arena and in the US and instead of isolating Palestine

AMMAN: The Palestine mission to the US continues to operate normally, despite threats by US National Security Adviser John Bolton to close it. American officials say that the closure will take place soon because Palestine, a member of the International Criminal Court, has called on it to investigate Israeli war crimes.
Husam Zomlot, head of the PLO mission in Washington, who has been recalled back to Ramallah since May in protest at the move of the US Embassy to Jerusalem, did not appear to be concerned. He told journalists in Ramallah that the closure will not stop Palestinians from pursuing Israel for war crimes.
The aim of the closure, Zomlot said, is “to protect Israel from investigations into its war crimes, and crimes against humanity that Israel is committing in the occupied Palestinian territories.”
Daniel Seidman, an Israeli lawyer and a peace activist in Jerusalem, told Arab News that the US is trying to crush Palestinian nationalism. “The US is engaged in an attempt to neuter or dismantle the Palestinian movement: The embassy, UNRWA, the East Jerusalem hospitals, occupation denial, now the PLO office. This is so blatant it cuts against broad international consensus which isolates the US.”
Seidman called the US move, which claims to remove Jerusalem from the negotiating table, “infantile.”
Hani Elmasri, a respected Palestinian political analyst and director of the Masarat think tank in Ramallah, told Arab News that the latest threat of closure is not new. “Since the US president refused last Nov. 17 to renew the registration of the mission in Washington, nothing has happened.”
Elmasri believes that the Trump administration is trying to increase pressure on the Palestinian president while pleasing his own rightwing and Christian Zionist base. Elmasri said the threats “make a loud noise but have no effect after all that Trump has done to the Palestinians.”
Rev. Munther Isaac, pastor of the Lutheran Nativity Evangelical Church and dean of the Bethlehem Bible College, told Arab News that the US moves are aimed at “blackmailing” the Palestinians and crushing their will. “In all these moves the people pay the price. What is the goal of this act of bullying? Is it just revenge against the Palestinians because they are not going along with their plans?”
Imad Shakour, a veteran PLO member who specializes in Israel and US affairs, told Arab News that the decision of the Trump administration will not make any difference. “Palestinians are making major headway in the international arena and in the US and instead of isolating Palestine, the US is isolating itself.”
Ori Nir, the director of communication at the nonprofit organization Americans for Peace Now, told Arab News that the move to close the Palestinian office in Washington is “another swing of Trump’s wrecking ball” at prospects for Israeli-Palestinian peace. “By acting as a bully, punishing and humiliating the Palestinians, the administration is wrecking its ability to serve as either an honest or an effective broker of Israeli-Palestinian peace, harming both US and Israeli national security interests,” he said.
Veteran Lebanese political analyst Hekmat El-Zein told Arab News that the goal of the Trump administration is to extract the highest concessions from Palestinians in favor of Netanyahu and a reflection of their failures in the Middle East. “They are not able to do anything in Syria and Iraq, and so they feel that they can make some progress by acting to reverse any decisions of the previous administration.”
El-Zein said that the US administration is acting in this way because of Arab divisions: “They know that the PLO has little or no Arab cover these days, and so it has become an easy target.”


Sabotage of oil tankers stirs concerns over Gulf shipping

Updated 22 May 2019
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Sabotage of oil tankers stirs concerns over Gulf shipping

  • The acts of sabotage near the UAE coast highlight new threat to maritime traffic and global oil supplies
  • Experts say increased threat to navigation and global oil supplies not limited regionally but has global dimension

DUBAI: Amid rising tensions between the US and Iran, sabotage attacks on four commercial vessels off the coast of the UAE’s Fujairah port have raised serious questions about maritime security in the Gulf.

The incidents, which included attacks on two Saudi oil tankers, were revealed by the UAE government on May 12, drawing strong condemnation from governments in the Middle East and around the world as well as the Arab League.

Now experts have warned that the sabotage attacks highlight a new threat to maritime traffic and global oil supplies.

A Saudi government source said: “This criminal act constitutes a serious threat to the security and safety of maritime navigation, and adversely affects regional and international peace and security.”

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) said the incidents threatened international maritime traffic.

While crimes on the high seas, including piracy, have tapered off in recent years, the attacks on the ships, three of which are registered to Saudi Arabia and the UAE, have called into question common assumptions about the Gulf’s stability.

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Theodore Karasik, a senior adviser at Gulf State Analytics in Washington D.C., said governments of the Gulf region are mandated to watch over oceans and waterways. “On top of this requirement is the need for a new regime of maritime coordination to prevent attacks on shipping because of the repercussions for logistical chains, corporate strategies and insurance rates,” he told Arab News.

The sabotage attacks took place east of Fujairah port, outside the Strait of Hormuz, a narrow waterway through which most Gulf oil exports pass and which Iran has threatened to block in the event of a military confrontation with the US.

Johan Obdola, president of the International Organization for Security and Intelligence, said the recent attacks underscore the need for closer intelligence-coordinated capabilities among the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, including satellite communication and maritime or vessel security technology.

“The threats to oil tankers are not limited to the Gulf, but have a global dimension,” he said.

According to Obdola: “A coordinated joint task force integrating oil, intelligence security and military forces should be (established) to project and prepare (for potential future attacks). This is a time to be as united as ever.”

GCC countries have intensified security in international waters, the US navy said. Additionally, two US guided-missile destroyers entered the Gulf on May 16 in response to what the US called signs of possible Iranian aggression.

“The attack has brought (the region) a bit closer to a possible military confrontation amid the escalation in tensions between the US and Iran,” Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, a former chairman of the Arab Council for Social Sciences, told Arab News.

He said Iran is purposely dragging Saudi Arabia, the UAE and possibly other Gulf countries into its fight with the US. “The credibility of the US is at stake and Trump has said he will meet any aggression with unrelenting force. If Iran continues on this path, we might see some kind of a military showdown on a limited scale.”

Given the importance of the region’s oil supplies to the US, Abdulla said “it’s not just the responsibility of Arab Gulf states but an international responsibility” to keep the shipping lanes safe.