The Palestinian envoy to the United States said his residency permit and those of his family members in the country have been canceled and the PLO’s bank accounts have been closed following the Trump administration’s decision to shut down the Palestinian Liberation Organization office in Washington.
Speaking to the Hezbollah-linked al-Mayadeen television network, Husam Zomlot said on Sunday that US officials have ordered him and his family to leave the country “immediately.”
Zomlot is already in Ramallah, having been recalled by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas earlier this year as part of the PA’s protest against US President Donald Trump’s decision to move the American Embassy to Jerusalem in May. Abbas had already halted most diplomatic ties with the Trump administration in December after the US officially recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
But according to PLO official Hanan Ashrawi, Zomlot’s wife and children were still living in the US until last week. The administration has now “revoked the visas of Ambassador Husam Zomlot’s wife and two children despite their being valid until 2020. Ambassador Zomlot’s son Said, 7, who is in second grade, and daughter Alma, 5, who is in kindergarten, were pulled out of Horace Mann Elementary School in Washington DC last week and have since left the country,” a statement from Ashrawi’s office said.
Ashrawi called the rescinding of the visas “spiteful.”
“By deliberately targeting the family of Ambassador Zomlot, the US administration has gone from cruel punishment to revenge against the Palestinians and their leadership even to the point of causing hardship to their innocent children and families,” she said.
On September 10, Zomlot told AP that his staffers had been given a month, until October 13, to pack up the PLO mission.
Zomlot insisted at the time that the closure would not deter Palestinians from seeking a state with East Jerusalem as the capital. “We lost the US administration, but we gained our national rights,” he said of continued Palestinian refusal to come to the negotiating table under Trump’s conditions.
Shortly thereafter, on September 13, the mission announced it had ceased all operations, but expressed hope the closure would be short-lived.
“Today is the deadline” for closure, Zomlot said at the time, in an online video addressed to “the great people of America.”
Today is the deadline for shutting down our public and external work in the US, following the decision of the US administration. On this occasion, a message from Ambassador @hzomlot to the American people pic.twitter.com/1hWjuBpSP8
— Palestine in the US (@PalestineUSA) September 13, 2018
The closure came on the 25th anniversary of the Oslo accords, the first agreements between Israelis and Palestinians that promised to end decades of deadly conflict, but which are now deadlocked and tarnished by soured relations.
US National Security Adviser John Bolton said last week the mission was being closed because the PLO had not taken steps toward negotiations with Israel.
Zomlot on Thursday denounced the “unfortunate and vindictive” US move to close the Palestinian mission.
“It was unsurprising to us the Trump administration gave us only two choices: either we lose our relationship with the administration or we lose our rights as a nation,” he said. “Our president, leadership, and the people of Palestine opted for our rights.”
Zomlot said the Palestinians were “extremely saddened by the current state of affairs.”
Addressing the “millions upon millions” of Americans who remain friends of the Palestinians, he said, “May we soon return to continue to be a symbol and a reflection of the historic relationship between the Palestinian and the American people.”
Prior to ordering the mission’s closure, the United States cut more than $200 million in aid to the Palestinians and canceled its support for the UN agency for Palestinian refugees.
The move to not grant the mission its normal six-month renewal came after Palestinian leaders allegedly breached the arrangement allowing the PLO office to operate on US soil by calling for Israeli officials to be prosecuted at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
Palestinian leaders say Trump’s White House is blatantly biased in favor of Israel and is seeking to blackmail them into accepting its terms.
Trump promised upon taking office to help broker the “ultimate deal” between Israel and the Palestinians.
“Wait until the peace plan is released, and when it’s released, please read it cover to cover and judge the plan on its merits — not on rumors, not on speculation, not on news reports, but on what’s in it,” one of the US negotiators, Jason Greenblatt, said Thursday on Twitter.
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said last week that the administration is “not ready to unveil” the plan, but remains optimistic.
“There needs to be a different kind of approach. Nothing has worked so we’re trying a different approach,” she said.
Agencies contributed to this report.
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