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

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.”


Israel strikes home of Palestinian militant commander in Gaza

Updated 2 min 26 sec ago

Israel strikes home of Palestinian militant commander in Gaza

  • Shortly after, Palestinian militants launched a salvo of rockets into IsraeL
  • An Islamic Jihad statement confirmed the death of Baha Abu Al-Atta

GAZA CITY, Palestinian Territories: Israel killed a top commander for Iranian-backed Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad in a rare targeted strike in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, accusing him of carrying out a series of cross-border attacks and planning more.

The slaying of Baha Abu Al-Atta in his home looked likely to pose a new challenge for Gaza’s ruling Hamas faction, which has mostly tried to maintain a truce with Israel since a 2014 war.

At least one other person, a woman, was also killed in the blast that ripped through the building in Gaza City’s Shejaia district before dawn, medics said. Two others were wounded.

Shortly after, Palestinian militants launched a salvo of rockets into Israel, witnesses said. There was no immediate word of casualties or damage on the other side. Israeli police said they closed some roads on the edge of Gaza as a precaution.

In a statement, the Israeli military said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had authorized the operation against Al-Atta, blaming him for recent rocket, drone and sniper attacks against Israel, and attempted infiltrations into the country.

“Abu Al-Atta was responsible for most of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s activity in the Gaza Strip and was a ticking bomb,” the statement said, accusing Al-Atta of planning “imminent terror attacks through various means.”

An Islamic Jihad statement confirmed the death of Al-Atta, who it said had been in the midst of “heroic jihadist action.”

“Our inevitable retaliation will rock the Zionist entity,” the statement said, referring to Israel.

Islamic Jihad shares Hamas’s ideological commitment to Israel’s destruction. But unlike Hamas, it is has often chafed at Egyptian-led efforts to forge cease-fires with the Israelis.

Israeli analysts have said Iran has been cultivating Islamic Jihad as a Gaza-based proxy as part of Tehran’s widening regional confrontation against Israel.