In regards to foreign policy, the one major difference between Obama and Trump has been their differing levels of support for Israel. While Obama pursued an antagonistic policy, Trump has proven his pro-Israel bonafides.
On Friday, the Trump administration publicly threatened to shut down the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) office in Washington, DC over the organization’s unwillingness to engage in peace talks with Israel.
Rex Tillerson and the State Department has determined that the PLO has repeatedly violated an International Criminal Court (ICC) ruling that the PLO cannot sue the state of Israel or individual Israelis.
This violation means that the State Department has a legal right to close down the PLO’s office in D.C.
The most recent legal maneuver featuring the PLO occurred in late September when Fatah leader and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called on the ICC to “open an investigation and to prosecute Israeli officials for their involvement in settlement activities and aggressions against our people.”
The settler issue in the West Bank continues to be the main point of contention between the Palestinian Authority and Tel Aviv. While Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has publicly stated that settlements in the West Bank should not be built, his Likud Party and other right-wing parties have openly given their support to new Jewish settlements on the West Banks.
Since 1993, 200,000 illegal Jewish settlements have been built in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Many of these settlements have been the scene of bloody violence between Israel’s Arab and Jewish communities.
As for the PLO, the group has been at the forefront of anti-Israeli violence since the 1960s.
In 1967, after Israel decisively won the Six-Day War, the PLO decided that they principle goal was the complete destruction of the state of Israel. The PLO conducted hundreds of terrorist attacks in the Middle East and in Europe during the 1970s and 1980s in order to accomplish their mission.
The PLO had a hand in the kidnapping in Munich, the bombing of SwissAir flight 330, the attack on the Lod Airport, and the launching of the second “intifada,” which killed over one thousand Israelis in five years.
It was the PLO that also pushed Israel towards invading southern Lebanon in 1982. This invasion lead to a nasty, brutish war that still resonates in the hearts and minds of the Lebanese to this day.
For the Trump administration, which has already drafted a peace plan, the PLO is seen as an intransigent adversary that is interested only in keeping the blood flowing.
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However, the PLO, which is nominally secular, is often the preferred negotiating partner to Hamas, the openly Islamist terrorist organization that controls Gaza.
If the Trump administration does decide to kick the PLO out of Washington, then the Palestinian group would have ninety days to vacate its premises and hand its office keys over to the U.S. government. While this might be a strong, pro-Israeli move, it could damage America’s chances of negotiating a peace settlement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority of the West Bank.