Is Closure of PLO Office Wise or Reckless?

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JEWISH LIGHT EDITORIALS

Now that President Donald Trump’s administration has ordered the closure of the Palestine Liberation Organization office in Washington, the question becomes what the response will be. Will the PLO take positive steps toward long-sought peace in the Middle East, or will the White House move harden positions on both sides?

Since the Oslo Declaration of Principles was signed in 1993, the United States and Israel have recognized the PLO as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.  The PLO office in Washington was supposed to provide an ongoing line of communication between Palestinian leadership and the U.S. State Department, White House and Congress, to help promote peace and avert violence.

Those supporting the closure of the PLO office point to the failure of Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, to take meaningful steps toward reopening peace talks. He has boycotted negotiations since Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moved the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.  

Abbas’ popularity has already waned because he has not made good on his promise to achieve a Palestinian state. At the same time, he has failed to stop increased tension caused by the teaching of anti-Israel and anti-Jewish hatred in Palestinian schools and has financially rewarded the families of Palestinian terrorists with blood on their hands.

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Similar hatred exists in the Gaza Strip, where nearly 2 million people live in wretched conditions. It is ruled by Hamas, which is defined by the United States and the European Union as a terrorist organization.  For several months since Israel’s 70th anniversary as an independent state, Hamas has fomented violence on the Gaza border, sending into Israel hundreds of incendiary kites and drones, along with lethal rockets and missiles.

The closure of the PLO office was designed as a wake-up call to Abbas and Hamas that if they want a state of their own, they need to form a unity government committed to achieving peace with Israel. 

Confusing the situation even more were the Trump administration’s decisions to freeze $25 million in funding for Palestinian hospitals in eastern Jerusalem and to cut off most U.N. aid funding to the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

We hope that the president’s moves will jolt the Palestinian Authority out of its slumber so that it joins the effort to achieve a two-state solution.  Closing of the PLO office seems an appropriate means of jump-starting the peace process. 

If the closure leads to the departure of Abbas, giving the Palestinians fresh leadership instead of endless drift and ineptitude, the move will have had a positive effect.

But cutting off support for Palestinian hospitals punishes the sick and wounded for the failures of their own leaders. That cut should be rescinded at the earliest possible date.

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