By Vincent Verdile
Just before the Thanksgiving weekend, United States officials announced that the Palestine Liberation Organization Mission in Washington D.C. could not stay open. This decision stemmed from a strict interpretation of U.S law by Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, reported by The Washington Post. This provision, according to Tillerson, was violated when Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, called on the International Criminal Court to investigate and prosecute the Israeli government, during a speech to the United Nations in September.
Reported by ABC, the initial response from the PLO was plain-spoken, as Senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat accused Washington of “bowing to the pressure of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu”. The Israeli government responded by stating the decision was “a matter of U.S. law”.
Just a week later, the Trump Administration adjusted their position on the situation, stating the law specified the PLO mission could remain open for 90 days while President Trump considers whether or not Palestine is in “direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel,” reported by ABC.
PLO Official Hanan Ashraewi responded, saying the United States was “disqualifying itself as a peace broker” because of their refusal to extend a waiver from law regarding the statements made in September. Furthermore, President Trump’s decision after the 90 days is “superfluous” because there are currently no peace negotiations between Israel and Palestine.
Initially reported by NBC News, a week after the Trump Administration’s adjustment, they are also considering moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem. According to The Washington Post, President Trump’s son-in-law and advisor, Jared Kushner, continues to develop a comprehensive peace plan that has rumored to be complete within the coming months.
Moving the U.S. Embassy would recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, something Palestine refuses to acknowledge or accept. Given the risk of moving it, President Trump has already renewed the six-month waiver on the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 this past June, meaning a decision is needed in December.
Stated by NBC News, Ilan Goldberg, director of the Middle East security program at the Center for a New American Security, believes the move would “kill the possibility of a peace deal anytime soon. . Furthermore, as Jerusalem is a holy site for not only Judaism but Islam as well, this decision would make the Arab states “furious”.
Having been accused of Islamophobia in the past, President Trump recently retweed videos posted on twitter by the Deputy Leader Jayda Fransen of Britain First a “fringe British ultranationalist group,” according to The New York Times. These videos depicted apparent violent acts by Muslims, but at least one of the videos had been proven to be false and merely propaganda. Prominent far-right InfoWars editor Paul Joseph Watson took to Twitter to say “retweeting Britain First is not good optics”.
While British Prime Minister Theresa May sharply stated, “the president was wrong to have done this,” while also denouncing Britain First for “dividing communities with hateful narratives,” reported by The New York Times. This dilemma only adds to the division and may push the Trump Administration away from sustaining peace talks between the Muslim and Jewish worlds.