File Photo: The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) office is seen in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 21, 2017. (Xinhua/AFP)
WASHINGTON, Sept. 10 (Xinhua) — The U.S. State Department on Monday announced the closure of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO)’s office in Washington, citing its lack of steps to advance direct negotiations with Israel.
“The PLO has not taken steps to advance the start of direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel,” said the department in a statement.
The decision to shut down the office was also linked with the U.S. concerns with Palestinian attempts to prompt an investigation of Israel by the International Criminal Court, according to the statement.
Senior Palestinian officials, who have been informed earlier by the Trump administration about the decision, have strongly condemned the U.S. latest move, calling it “reckless” and “bullying.”
“We don’t think this is just about bullying … we believe this is about the implementing of Israel’s grocery list,” said Husam Zomlot, the Palestinian representative to Washington, in an interview.
Zomlot also described ties between the United States and the Palestinians at a “historical low.”
U.S. media reported on Saturday that the Trump administration “will be redirecting approximately 25 million U.S. dollars originally planned for the East Jerusalem Hospital Network. Those funds will go to high-priority projects elsewhere.”
In response, the Palestinian side denounced the move as “an act of political blackmail,” saying it would cause “serious instability and grave harm” to thousands of patients and their families across the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The upcoming U.S. decision will be the latest in a trove of U.S. funding cuts against the Palestinians.
In August, the U.S. State Department announced a decision to “redirect” economic aid to the Palestinians that are worthy of more than 200 million dollars.
Later, it announced it would not provide assistance funding any more for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).
Palestinian officials have said that the U.S. move comes in line with Trump’s attempt to ignore the final issues of the Palestinian-Israel peace process and remove the issues of Jerusalem and refugees “off the table.”
The United States recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December last year, sparking global outcry.