After the Palestinian Liberation Organization called for Israel to be investigated for war crimes at the ICC, the State Department ordered its D.C. office be closed. Palestinian officials have vowed to fight back against this kind of “collective punishment” of Palestinians.
By Dr. Ed DeVries
The State Department has ordered the closure of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) office in Washington, D.C. because the PLO “has not taken steps to advance the start of direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel,” the State Department announced Sept. 17.
In an official statement, U.S. officials said, “PLO leadership has condemned a U.S. peace plan they have not yet seen and refused to engage with the U.S. government with respect to peace efforts and otherwise.”
The PLO office, which serves as a de facto “embassy” staffed by an “ambassador” to represent Palestinian interests to the U.S. government, has been instructed to close no later than Oct. 10.
The decision follows an extended period of estrangement between the Palestinian Authority, a self-declared but unrecognized nation-state on Israel’s West Bank, and the United States. The Palestinians have also withdrawn from talks over a still-to-be-released plan for peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
In response, Palestinian officials vowed to fight what they are calling “bullying tactics” and “collective punishment” of the Palestinian people.
“These people have decided to stand on the wrong side of history by protecting war criminals and destroying the two-state solution,” said chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat. “I told them if you are worried about courts, you should stop aiding and abetting crimes.”
This brings us to the real reason for ordering the closure: The PLO has called for an investigation of Israel by the International Criminal Court (ICC). Neither the United States nor Israel recognizes the court.
The Washington Post reports that there is legislation in place to close the PLO office in the event they ever attempt to prosecute Israel or the United States in the ICC.
At the same time the State Department was closing the PLO office, National Security Advisor John Bolton was putting the ICC on notice.
During his 9/11 commemoration speech, given the prior day to the Federalist Society, Bolton, an unapologetic advocate for Israel, made it abundantly clear that “The United States will not in any way cooperate with the International Criminal Court.” He called the ICC an “unaccountable, bureaucratic body that runs counter to the Constitution and is antithetical to our nation’s ideals.”
Neither the United States nor Israel are signatories or participants in the treaty that established the ICC, thus the ICC has no jurisdiction over either nation or over the citizens of any non-signatory nation. When officials from the ICC announced recently that they were stepping up last Afghanistan,” Bolton used his 9/11 speech as an opportunity to send a message:
Today, on the eve of Sept. 11, I want to deliver a clear and unambiguous message on behalf of the President of the United States. The United States will use any means necessary to protect our citizens and those of our allies from unjust prosecution by this illegitimate court. We will not cooperate with the ICC. We will provide no assistance to the ICC. And we certainly will not join the ICC. We will let the ICC die on its own.
After all, for all intents and purposes, the ICC is already dead to us.
To make sure that the warning was taken seriously, the national security advisor threatened sanctions and punishments to any ICC judges, prosecutors, or investigators who would dare to defy the U.S.:
We will sanction their funds in the U.S. financial system, and we will prosecute them in the U.S. criminal system. We will do the same for any company or state that assists an ICC investigation of Americans.
Bolton also threatened a ban on travel to the United States for people involved in the attempted prosecution of Americans before the ICC and proposed measures to strengthen existing agreements with other countries to shield Americans from international prosecution.
So while the official order makes no mention of the PLO’s attempt to prosecute Israel, and possibly Americans, in the ICC, it was no coincidence that the PLO office was ordered to close at the same time as the president’s national security hawk put the ICC on notice. The State Department ordered the PLO out of Washington to ensure that the world received Bolton’s message loud and clear.
Quick to respond, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas addressed the United Nations Security Council the next day, calling for “an international Middle East peace conference to be convened” later this year. He also attacked Trump for recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Trump is scheduled to address the UN General Assembly later this month. It is believed that he will intentionally ignore Abbas’s remarks, since he is not the “president” of a recognized nation. He will instead use the opportunity to remind the world of the threat posed by Iran and to reiterate his opposition to the international nuclear deal with that nation.
Since its founding in 2002, all three successive administrations of both political parties have rejected the jurisdiction of the ICC over American citizens. However, the Obama administration did cooperate with the court in its prosecution of non-U.S. persons.
A pastor and in-demand traveling speaker, Dr. Edward DeVries is the editor of the Dixie Heritage Newsletter and a contributing editor at THE BARNES REVIEW. He is the author of 30 books including the two-volume Glory in Grey. Some of his other titles include Sacred Honor, The Truth About the Confederate Battle Flag, Prayer is Simple, Every Member a Minister and Coaching Youth Baseball the Right Way. He is also the host of TBR RADIO’S “Dixie Heritage Hour.” Please check it out at www.BarnesReview.org.