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.”


US military to present several options to Trump on Iran

Updated 37 min 12 sec ago

US military to present several options to Trump on Iran

  • Donald Trump will also be warned that military action against the Islamic Republic could escalate into war
  • The US response could involve military, political and economic actions

WASHINGTON: The Pentagon will present a broad range of military options to President Donald Trump on Friday as he considers how to respond to what administration officials say was an unprecedented Iranian attack on Saudi Arabia’s oil industry.
In a White House meeting, the president will be presented with a list of potential airstrike targets inside Iran, among other possible responses, and he also will be warned that military action against the Islamic Republic could escalate into war, according to US officials familiar with the discussions who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The national security meeting will likely be the first opportunity for a decision on how the US should respond to the attack on a key Middle East ally. Any decision may depend on what kind of evidence the US and Saudi investigators are able to provide proving that the cruise missile and drone strike was launched by Iran, as a number of officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, have asserted.
Iran has denied involvement and warned the US that any attack will spark an “all-out war” with immediate retaliation from Tehran.
Both Pompeo and Vice President Mike Pence have condemned the attack on Saudi oil facilities as “an act of war.” Pence said Trump will “review the facts, and he’ll make a decision about next steps. But the American people can be confident that the United States of America is going to defend our interest in the region, and we’re going to stand with our allies.”
The US response could involve military, political and economic actions, and the military options could range from no action at all to airstrikes or less visible moves such as cyberattacks. One likely move would be for the US to provide additional military support to help Saudi Arabia defend itself from attacks from the north, since most of its defenses have focused on threats from Houthis in Yemen to the south.
Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, emphasized to a small number of journalists traveling with him Monday that the question of whether the US responds is a “political judgment” and not for the military.
“It is my job to provide military options to the president should he decide to respond with military force,” Dunford said.
Trump will want “a full range of options,” he said. “In the Middle East, of course, we have military forces there and we do a lot of planning and we have a lot of options.”
US Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Michigan, said in an interview Thursday that if Trump “chooses an option that involves a significant military strike on Iran that, given the current climate between the US and Iran, there is a possibility that it could escalate into a medium to large-scale war, I believe the president should come to Congress.”
Slotkin, a former top Middle East policy adviser for the Pentagon, said she hopes Trump considers a broad range of options, including the most basic choice, which would be to place more forces and defensive military equipment in and around Saudi Arabia to help increase security.
A forensic team from US Central Command is pouring over evidence from cruise missile and drone debris, but the Pentagon said the assessment is not finished. Officials are trying to determine if they can get navigational information from the debris that could provide hard evidence that the strikes came from Iran.
Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said Thursday that the US has a high level of confidence that officials will be able to accurately determine exactly who launched the attacks last weekend.
US officials were unwilling to predict what kind of response Trump will choose. In June, after Iran shot down an American surveillance drone, Trump initially endorsed a retaliatory military strike then abruptly called it off because he said it would have killed dozens of Iranians. The decision underscores the president’s long-held reluctance to embroil the country in another war in the Middle East.
Instead, Trump opted to have US military cyber forces carry out a strike against military computer systems used by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard to control rocket and missile launchers, according to US officials.