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After PLO halts ties with US, Arab League steps in to salvage peace process

Nov. 20, 2017 10:29 A.M. (Updated: Nov. 21, 2017 6:31 P.M.)
(File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- The Arab League has reportedly approached the United States government regarding its recent decision to punitively shut down the office of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in Washington D.C, over the Palestinian leadership’s efforts to bring Israel before the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Official Palestinian Authority (PA)-owned Wafa news agency reported on Sunday, shortly after the US State Department announced its decision, that the Arab League -- a regional organization of 22 Arab countries -- announced that its Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit approached the US President Donald Trump’s administration over the closure.

The league is reportedly attempting to do damage control and resume US-led peace negotiations following the PLO’s reaction to the closure, in which the group’s secretary general, Saeb Erekat, threatened to “put on hold all our communications with this American administration" if the US did in fact close the PLO Washington office.

According to Wafa, Aboul Gheit met with the league’s foreign minister, Riyad al-Maliki, where the two discussed the the official position of the PLO and the PA, “saying it will harm the peace process and the role of the US as peace broker.”

The PLO announced in September its decision to submit a request to the ICC to investigate illegal Israeli settlement activity in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Separately, four Palestinian human rights organizations submitted a 700-page communication to the ICC alleging that Israeli officials have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.

International media reported that the PLO’s plans would breach conditions previously imposed by US Congress on the PLO, preventing it from taking any cases to the ICC.

The PLO office could allegedly be reopened 90 days after closure if Trump believes the PLO has entered into “direct, meaningful negotiations with Israel.”

The events came amid weeks of speculation in Israeli and Palestinian media over the Trump administrations “ultimate peace plan” for the region, which is set to be presented soon.

Israeli news daily Haaretz quoted Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ spokesperson Nabil Abu Rudeina as calling the US move to shut down the PLO office as "a dangerous threat...that leads (to the conclusion that( the United States is losing its position as a negotiator" and that it was "withdrawing from its role as a sponsor of the diplomatic process for peace as promised by President Trump."

While Trump has maintained on many occasions that, under his auspices, the decades-long Palestinian-Israeli conflict will be solved, his administration has painted a rather unclear picture regarding Trump’s plans in the region, while a number of high-profile US officials are known to be staunch supporters of Israel.

In February, Trump said that when it came to a solution for the decades-long conflict he could “live with either” a one- or two-state solution, in a significant departure from the US’ publicly held position in favor of a two-state solution to the conflict.

However, his elusiveness has not belied the fact that Trump and his administration have maintained their pro-Israel stance, despite stated efforts to renew the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, which he said in the past was "not as difficult as people have thought over the years.”

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