The Palestinians expressed rage after their envoy in Washington and his family were ordered to leave the country immediately.
The Trump administration on Sunday revoked the visas of Palestinian Ambassador to the US Husam Zomlot, in addition to his family members’ visas, ordering them to leave the country immediately.
While the visas of Zomlot’s wife and two children had been valid until 2020, the children were pulled out of school in Washington D.C. last week and have since left the country.
Zomlot has not returned to Washington D.C. since being recalled in May by Palestinian Authority (PA) head Mahmoud Abbas in protest of the administration’s move of the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Last Tuesday, the US administration informed staff at the PLO General Delegation Office in Washington D.C. of the guidelines for closing down the office. The employees were ordered to cease all operations and to close all bank accounts. They were also told that there would be no renewal of the mission’s lease. The staff was given until October 13 to vacate the premises.
Addressing the US’ latest move against the Palestinians, PLO Executive Committee Member Hanan Ashrawi commented, “As if the announcement that the US would close our office in Washington D.C. was not enough, this vindictive action by the Trump administration is spiteful. The US has taken its attempts to pressure and blackmail the Palestinians to a new level,” reported the official Palestinian news agency WAFA.
She added, “This unconscionable move goes against all diplomatic protocol and constitutes an inhumane escalation on the part of the Trump administration to persist in their policy of pressure and extortion.”
This last US move follows a string of massive cuts in American aid to Palestinian organizations and agencies, including the Palestinians’ United Nations body, UNRWA. In total, the US has eliminated over $500 million in aid to various Palestinian agencies and government organizations.
The Trump administration ordered the closure of the Palestinian diplomatic mission in Washington last Monday, citing the refusal of Palestinians to enter into talks with Israel and their rejection of the as-yet-unveiled US peace plan as the reason for the dramatic move.
US National Security Adviser John Bolton said that “the Trump administration will not keep the office open when the Palestinians refuse to take steps to start direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel. The United States supports a direct and robust peace process.”
Zomlot retorted by saying that the Palestinians “stand firm in our decision not to cooperate in this ongoing campaign to liquidate our rights and cause. Our rights are not for sale, and we will block any attempts at bullying and blackmailing us to forgo our legitimate and internationally endorsed rights.”