Netanyahu hails US decision to close PLO office in Washington

Tel Aviv: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday welcomed US President Donald Trump administration’s decision to close the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO)’s office in Washington.

The State Department announced the move on Monday, citing its lack of steps to advance direct negotiations with Israel. It also cited the Palestinians’ efforts to get the International Criminal Court to prosecute Israelis for apparent violations of international law in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.

“The US took the right decision regarding the PLO office in Washington,” Xinhua quoted Netanyahu as saying in a statement released by his office.

“Israel supports the US actions, which were aimed at clarifying to the Palestinians that their refusal to negotiate and the attempts to attack Israel in international forums will not advance peace,” he said.

The US move was denounced by the Palestinians. “This dangerous escalation shows that the United States is willing to disband the international system in order to protect Israeli crimes and attacks against the land and people of Palestine as well as against peace and security in the rest of our region,” PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat said in a statement.

The Trump administration has been making preparations to unveil its long-awaited Middle East peace plan, but Palestinian leadership has declined to engage with Trump’s envoys following his controversial recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in December.

The recent announcement was the latest in a string of measures taken by the White House against the Palestinians, including the defunding of the United Nations’ Palestinian refugee agency of UNRWA.