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US decision to shut PLO office 'denies Palestinians as people'

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12th-Sep-2018       
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Al Jazeera News, Washington :
The Trump administration's decision to shut down the Palestine Liberation Organization's (PLO) office in Washington, DC, is "denying the Palestinians as people" and further jeopardising the peace process, analysts warn.
White House National Security Advisor John Bolton announced the administration's decision in a speech on Monday, saying the PLO had "not taken steps to advance the start of direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel". He said the PLO leadership had instead "condemned a yet-to-be-seen US peace plan and "refused to engage with the US government with respect to peace efforts and otherwise". The administration has also threatened the International Criminal Court with sanctions if judges open an investigation into the US or Israel.
Palestinian officials have described the decision as a "declaration of war on efforts to bring peace ... to the region".
PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat said the decision was "yet another affirmation of the Trump administration's policy to collectively punish the Palestinian people".
The move is being seen by analysts as another blow to the Palestinians in a chain of events that have favoured the Israeli government at the expense of Palestinians, adding to the potential of unrest and violence.
The administration of US President Donald Trump recently said it was cutting more than $200m in economic aid to the Palestinians. It also recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel last year and moved the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem this year.
Over the past year, Jared Kushner, senior White House adviser and Trump's son-in-law, has questioned Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas' commitment to peace.

"The [Trump administration] has changed the parameters of how the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been dealt with in recent years," said Ian Black, a visiting senior fellow at the Middle East Centre, London School of Economics.  While the decision carries a multitude of implications for a peace process, Black said the most significant of those has been the weakening of any kind of mechanism to produce a settlement to the conflict or a two-state solution.
"It is worth pointing out that the Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, is more likely than any other to come to some kind of two-state solution with Israel," he said. "But he has been pushed to react furiously to American moves. [There will] no longer be a fair mediator in the conflict. Abbas has been pushed beyond limits on this."
While a long-term effect of the decision would be tingeing the international commitment to a two-state solution, he said a risk of instability and violence was possible in the short-term.
"Everyone remembers the split screen of the beautifully orchestrated ceremony at the embassy opening and the 60 people shot dead in Gaza," he said.

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