Trump Administration to Close Palestine Liberation Organization Office in Washington – WSJ

Source: Trump Administration to Close Palestine Liberation Organization Office in Washington – WSJ

National security adviser John Bolton also plans to threaten sanctions against International Criminal Court, in a Monday speech

The Palestine Liberation Organization Office in Washington, D.C.

The Palestine Liberation Organization Office in Washington, D.C. PHOTO: SAUL LOEB/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

WASHINGTON—The Trump administration is expected to announce Monday that it will close the Palestine Liberation Organization’s office in Washington, administration officials said Sunday night, widening a U.S. campaign of pressure amid stalled Middle East peace efforts.

“The United States will always stand with our friend and ally, Israel,” national security adviser John Bolton planned to say in prepared remarks he is scheduled to deliver Monday, according a draft reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

“The Trump administration will not keep the office open when the Palestinians refuse to start direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel,” he planned to add.

PLO mission officials couldn’t be reached for comment late Sunday.

Mr. Bolton also planned to threaten to impose sanctions against the International Criminal Court if it moves ahead with investigations of the U.S. and Israel.

“If the court comes after us, Israel or other allies, we will not sit quietly,” Mr. Bolton planned to say, according to his prepared remarks.

Among the responses, Mr. Bolton says, the U.S. would ban ICC judges and prosecutors from entering the country.

“We will sanction their funds in the U.S. financial system, and we will prosecute them in the U.S. criminal system,” Mr. Bolton adds. “We will do the same for any company or state that assists an ICC investigation of Americans.”

The PLO office in Washington has long been the focus of controversy. The Trump administration warned last year that it might close the office after Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbascalled for the investigation and prosecution of Israeli officials by the ICC and other bodies.

Saeb Erekat, a senior Palestinian Authority negotiator responded at the time that such a move would undermine prospects for peace. The PLO opened its mission in Washington in 1994 and joined the ICC after receiving observer state status at the U.N. in 2012.

Explaining the decision to close the PLO office, Mr. Bolton planned to say that it reflects longstanding congressional concerns with Palestinian efforts to prompt an ICC investigation of Israel, according to his prepared remarks.

The closure follows other steps by the Trump administration that have angered Palestinians, including moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv and ending funding for the U.N. agency that helps Palestinian refugees.

Mr. Bolton planned to say, however, that the Trump administration is still committed to negotiating a peace accord between Israel and the Palestinians.

“The United States supports a direct and robust peace process, and we will not allow the ICC, or any other organization, to constrain Israel’s right to self-defense,” he planned to say, according to the prepared remarks.

The ICC recently said it has jurisdiction to investigate Myanmar officials for the violence against the Muslim Rohingya minority. It also has pursued charges of genocide against people in the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda and the Darfur region of Sudan.

The U.S. and Russia aren’t members of The Hague-based court, formed under an international treaty, and the Philippines has moved to quit it.

In the U.S., the ICC has long been the bane of conservatives, including Mr. Bolton, who consider it biased against the U.S. and a danger to U.S. sovereignty. Mr. Bolton is scheduled to deliver his speech, “Protecting American Constitutionalism and Sovereignty from International Threats,” to the Federalist Society, a conservative group, on Monday.

A particular concern has been a request last year by the ICC prosecutor to investigate U.S. military and Central Intelligence Agency personnel who served in Afghanistan for alleged detainee abuse and possibly other war crimes.

In the prepared remarks planned for Monday, Mr. Bolton offers an extended critique of the court, which he asserts is rife with abuses, and vows that the U.S. will use “any means necessary” to protect American citizens and those of friendly allies from prosecution by the court.

If the court moves against the U.S. or its allies, he planned to say, the administration will negotiate binding agreements to prohibit other nations from turning over U.S. citizens to the court.

Nations that cooperate with ICC investigations of the U.S. and its allies will also risk losing foreign aid and military assistance, he will state, according to the prepared remarks.

Other responses, he warned, include economic sanctions against the court itself. The U.S., he said, also will consider asking the U.N. Security Council to constrain the court’s authority.

ICC officials didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Write to Michael R. Gordon at michael.gordon@wsj.com

Appeared in the September 10, 2018, print edition as ‘U.S. to Oust PLO From Washington.’

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