National security adviser John Bolton says international court ‘dead to us’

Sep 11, 2018, 01:12

Shortly after the State Department announcement, President Donald Trump's national security adviser, John Bolton, launched a broadside against The Hague-based International Criminal Court.

PLO chief negotiator Saeb Erekat slammed the Trump administration's decision to close the offices; accusing the White House of protecting Israeli "war criminals" and "destroying the two-state solution".

In November a year ago, the Trump administration warned that it might close the office in reaction to a call by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for probing and prosecuting Israeli officials at the ICC and other global organizations.

The closure of the PLO office - the latest in a series of moves targeting the Palestinians - was centered on the fact that no "direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel" are underway despite previous warnings, the State Department said.

The United States on Monday announced to shutter the Palestinians' mission in Washington, adding further pressure on them to enter peace talks with Israel. If the worldwide court continues to pursue the probe, Washington will ban ICC judges from entering the country, prosecute them and sanction their funds, the official said in a speech before the Federalist Society in Washington, DC. "After all, for all intents and purposes, the ICC is already dead to us", says Bolton's draft text.

Although the Israelis and Palestinians are not engaged in active, direct negotiations, Trump's administration has been working to mediate a peace deal that would end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Palestinians have said they would reject any U.S. peace proposal after the embassy move.

The U.S. does not now recognize the Palestinian territories as an independent state, though the U.N. General Assembly overwhelmingly voted in 2012 to recognize Palestine as a "non-member observer state". "We will sanction their funds in the USA financial system, and we will prosecute them in the USA criminal system", he said.

The State Department announced this month that the United States is ending its decades of funding for the U.N. agency that helps Palestinian refugees.

Last month, the USA cancelled more than $200m (£153m) in aid for projects in the West Bank and Gaza.

The U.S. supplies almost 30 percent of the total budget of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, or UNRWA, and had been demanding reforms in the way it is run.

It accuses the Palestinian leadership of condemning a yet-to-be-released Trump administration plan to forge peace between Israel and the Palestinians. The Palestinians claim East Jerusalem - which Israel captured from Jordan in the 1967 Six Day War and later annexed - as the capital of their future state. Today, it provides education and social services to over 5 million people across the region.

In May, a spokesperson for the National Security Council said the White House was weighing closing the PLO mission after the PA's foreign minister submitted a "referral" to the ICC calling for an investigation of Israeli settlement policies in the West Bank and the violent clashes on the Gaza border. It does this through the Palestinian Authority, a governing body that it created.

The PLO was once considered a terrorist organisation by the United States and Israel until 1991.

The PLO is headed by Mahmoud Abbas, who took control of the organization after Arafat died in 2004.

"On the one hand, Palestinian-US relations have been frozen and the PLO representative had left Washington since the decision to move the US embassy to Jerusalem last December".

Just last June, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Attorney General Jeff Sessions were urged by lawmakers to close the diplomatic outlet, which endorses "flagrant violations" of US law such as payments to terrorists. The consulate opened in May with a star-studded reception that included the president's daughter, Ivanka and Kushner, as well as Israel's top leaders.

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