By Ron Kampeas, JTA
WASHINGTON – In 1987, Congress pbaded legislation stating that there would never be an office of the Palestine Liberation Organization in the territory of the United States. UU President Ronald Reagan accepted and signed the law.
Seven years later, the law was still in the books. But that year the PLO opened an office in Washington, with the blessing of Congress and President Bill Clinton.
Since then, an office of the PLO has remained in the US capital, navigating a persistent anomaly: the 1987 law officially prohibits the existence of a PLO office, but remains open as long as the Palestinians meet certain conditions.
Now, however, the PLO may have violated some of those conditions; As a result, your DC office can be closed.
On Friday night, the Trump administration announced that the PLO can not operate an office in Washington because it tried to get the International Criminal Court to prosecute the Israelis for crimes against the Palestinians.
Confused? You're not alone. Here is an explanation of the law and what is happening.
The law is clear, but Congress has been lenient.
The Foundation for Peace in the Middle East has usefully published a timeline of relevant laws.
Most remarkably, the legislation of # 87 makes it "illegal" to establish an office with funds provided by the PLO or any of its constituent groups.
Reagan, like many previous and later presidents, did not love the infraction of his executive privilege of doing foreign policy. But in his signing statement, he said the PLO was not an appropriate negotiating partner.
"I have no intention of establishing diplomatic relations with the PLO," Reagan said, so he signed the law.
Within a year or so, however, Reagan recognized the PLO as an appropriate negotiating partner, conveniently in the lame period after the election of his vice president, George HW Bush, as president. That recognition, although rescinded by Bush in months, was one of the predicates of the Madrid peace process initiated by Bush in 1991. Those talks led to the 1993 Oslo accords between the PLO and Israel, which led to the 1994 opening. of the Office.
Congress, in a series of laws beginning in 1993, granted exemptions to its ban in an office of the PLO. He gave two reasons: to maintain the peace process and, later, to reserve a matter of national security for the United States.
Congress took energetic action after the PLO sought state unification.
Congress retaliated after the efforts of the PLO to obtain statehood recognition outside the parameters of an agreement with Israel. Those requests followed the collapse of the Oslo process and then the Annapolis talks between 2007 and 2008.
There is an eye-to-eye dynamic for the events: Palestine was recognized by UNESCO in 2011; Congress pbaded a law the same year saying that any subsequent entry into a U.N. It would mean closing the office. Palestine gained recognition at the International Criminal Court in 2015 – the ICC is not a UN body, officials of the PLO said. Then, the same year, Congress pbaded a measure that said the office can remain open if the Palestinians did not bring actions against Israel in court.
The office seems to be open, for now. [19659004Deacuerdoconlacartadelaleyde2015laoficinanodebepermanecerabiertasilaleyhasidoefectivamenteviolada(mássobreesoenunmomento)Laoficinadebecerrarinmediatamenteynovolveraabrirdurantealmenos90díasysolosielpresidentecertificaalCongresoque"lospalestinoshanentabladonegociacionesdirectasysignificativasconIsrael"
Senior officials do not respond office emails or returning calls, but not closed: on Tuesday morning, a receptionist asked for an interview.
Let's call the State Department, which initiated the process.
"We are working on the modalities of the closing process," a State Department spokeswoman told JTA on Monday in an email after a reporter tried to talk to a human being.
What modalities? What are the modalities? What process? Does the process begin with the closing of the office or ends with it? Welcome to talk in Washington.
Do government officials meet with PLO representative Husam Zomlot?
"We have nothing to announce about the meetings at this time," the spokeswoman said.
Saeb Erekat, a Palestinian senior The negotiator in the Washington area recovering from a lung transplant said in a video that the ICC was the trigger for the closing announcement. Except that the most critical Palestinian actions with regard to the court – joining and requesting an investigation into alleged Israeli crimes – were carried out before the relevant law was pbaded.
A lot of guilt or credit is going around, depending on your perspective.
It is the work of Mahmoud Abbas.
This is what the president of the Palestinian Authority and the president of the PLO said in September at the UN General Assembly: "We have asked the International Criminal Court to open an investigation and prosecute the officials Israelis for their participation in settlement activities and aggressions against our people, and we will continue to look for our adhesions to conventions, protocols and international organizations. "
The 2015 law says "any action with respect to the ICC that intends to influence a determination by the ICC to initiate a judicially authorized investigation, or to actively support such an investigation, to submit to Israeli citizens or an investigation by alleged crimes against Palestinians "would trigger the closure of the office.
Was Abbas's speech an "action" he "intended to influence" in court? Or was he describing actions that the Palestinians had already taken before the law was pbaded?
It's the work of Ron Dermer.
Palestinian officials told the Al-Monitor news site that Israel's ambbadador to the United States, who has close ties to the Trump administration, has been behind the effort.
"This is the pressure exerted on this administration by the Netanyahu government at a time when we are trying to cooperate to achieve the 'definitive agreement'." Erekat said, using the term that President Donald Trump has used to describe a peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians.
Israelis are not taking credit, although they seem pleased.
"This is an American law," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Ynet. "We appreciate the decision and look forward to continuing our work with the United States advancing peace and security in the region."
It's the work of the White House.
Jared Kushner, the president's son – The law and the main adviser in the Middle East, and Jason Greenblatt, Trump's main envoy to the talks, want to start the peace process, according to this theory. The Palestinians will have to commit to the peace talks with Israel, this is what this theory says, if they want to recover their office in Washington.
"It seems that this is being used as a tactic to force [the Palestinians] to negotiate table in terms determined by the United States, Saudi and Israelis," said Lara Friedman, president of the Middle East Peace Foundation.
Problems with this theory: the action was initiated by the State Department and it is unclear if Greenblatt and Kushner were on the circuit. In addition, the two, especially Greenblatt, have made a great effort to cultivate the leadership of the Palestinian Authority, hoping to reinstate it in the Gaza Strip, where the terrorist group Hamas currently directs things. Kushner and Greenblatt made a well-publicized visit to Erekat's bedside just a few weeks ago. Why undermine the Palestinians now?
It is the work of Rex Tillerson.
After all, he is the Secretary of State, although he is gaining a reputation for inefficiency. But he is as interested as Kushner in cultivating goodwill in the region. What would be of the Tillerson game here?
It's Obama's work.
President Barack Obama could have closed the PLO office when Erekat repeatedly called for an ICC investigation into alleged Israeli war crimes during the 2014 Gaza War. Instead, Obama kicked the next administration.
"This is the first time that the Palestinians take that step with the Trump administration in charge," said Jonathan Schanzer, vice president of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. "And it seems they are applying the law instead of bargaining."
What happens with the peace process?
What peace process? Schanzer said that any process was almost moribund anyway.
"What I'm asking now is whether the PLO is engaged in serious negotiations that require a presence in Washington," he said. "The PLO Embbady has participated in a public relations effort that primarily demonizes Israelis and eludes diplomatic efforts."
Officials of the Trump administration in recent days have been leaking about plans to relaunch the peace process as early as next year. The Palestinians have so far been a game: Zomlot, the PLO envoy to Washington, has been effusive in his approach to American Jewish groups, media and politicians about Trump's "definitive agreement." They have suspended offers to join international agencies. 19659004] Nuh-eh, say the Palestinians. Closing the office "is unprecedented in the history of relations between the US and Palestine, which could have serious consequences for the peace process and relations between the United States and the Arab countries, as well as being a serious blow to peace efforts ", Nabil Abu Rudeineh, spokesman for Abbas. He said during the weekend.
When will we know for sure?
The PLO office will offer a Christmas party early next month. Does someone appear? Pay attention.