House letter calls on Obama to shut PLO office

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Just over half of the U.S. House of Representatives called on President Obama to shut down the PLO office in Washington as punishment for its ascension in U.N. status.

“One important way of expressing U.S. disapproval would be to send the message that such actions are not cost-free and that, at a minimum, they result in setbacks to U.S.-Palestinian relations,” said the letter sent Dec. 21, initiated by the incoming and outgoing leaders of both parties on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and signed by 239 members, including leaders such as Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), the majority leader, and Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), the minority whip.  

“We can do this by closing the PLO office in Washington, D.C.  We can also call our Consul-General in Jerusalem home for consultations,” the letter said.

The Palestine Liberation Organization had its status elevated last month to non-member observer state, which could facilitate efforts to charge Israel with war crimes in the international court system.

The letter was initiated by Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), Ed Royce (R-Calif.), respectively the outgoing and incoming chairs, and Reps. Howard Berman (D-Calif.) and Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), respectively the outgoing and incoming ranking Democrats.

The letter also calls for defunding of U.N.-affiliated organizations that similarly enhance PLO membership.

The letter was backed by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

The letter follows an attempt earlier this month to attach a similar amendment to a Senate defense funding law; that amendment never came to a vote.

Notably, the letter sent Dec. 21 did not include a call to defund the PLO-affiliated Palestinian Authority, as the Senate amendment did.

Separately, Ros-Lehtinen and 59 other lawmakers from both parties sent a letter of thanks Dec. 21 to the seven nations to join the United States and Israel in what was a lopsided 138-9 U.N. General Assembly vote in favor of enhanced Palestinian statehood status, with 41 countries abstaining.

The seven countries are: Canada, the Czech Republic, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, and Panama.

Help us tell the Jewish story with reporting from around the world. Please donate to JTA.

Click to write a letter to the editor.