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17 Sep, 2018 02:18

‘Vindictive & cruel’: US revokes visas of Palestinian envoy’s family after mission shutdown

‘Vindictive & cruel’: US revokes visas of Palestinian envoy’s family after mission shutdown

The Palestinian Liberation Organization has accused US of a new level of pressure and of being 'spiteful' after the family of its envoy had their visas annulled following the closure of the PLO office.

Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the PLO's executive committee, said on Sunday that the US “has taken its attempts to pressure and blackmail the Palestinians to a new level.” She lambasted Washington’s decision to banish Ambassador Husam Zomlot’s wife and their two children from the country.

“As if the announcement that the US would close our office in Washington DC was not enough, this vindictive action by the Trump administration is spiteful," she said, arguing that the move “goes against diplomatic norms.” 

“Children, spouses and family have nothing to do with political rows,” she added.

Said, 7, and Alma, 5, had to be pulled from their school in Washington DC last week and left the US for Palestine.

Washington’s move to kick the ambassador’s entire family out of the US comes after it gave the PLO’s staff until October 13 to pack up and vacate its leased office in Washington DC. The US State Department said that the decision, slammed by the PLO as “collective punishment,” was prompted by the Palestinian authorities’ appeal to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to launch an investigation into Israeli officials’ alleged “crimes against humanity.” These alleged crimes include forcible removals, demolition of Palestinian homes, and unlawful killings of protesters.

READ MORE:‘Unjust court’: Bolton vows to use ‘any means’ to protect US ally Israel from ICC

US National Security Advisor John Bolton vowed to protect US’ “friend and ally” Israel from the court, threatening the ICC judges with retaliation. “We will ban ICC judges and prosecutors from entering the United States, sanction their funds in the United States financial system, and prosecute them in the United States criminal system,” Bolton said.

Apart from shutting down the PLO’s offices, the US government demanded that employees close all bank accounts in the US.

Calling the expulsion of Zomlot’s family an “inhumane escalation on the part of the Trump administration,” the Palestinian official said Washington was seeking to avenge Palestine’s refusal to enter into talks with US officials to negotiate an “ultimate” peace deal, touted by US President Donald Trump as “the deal of the century.”

The US plan has been in the works for over a year now, with State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert saying last week that Washington is still “not ready to unveil” the proposal.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has been averse to the idea of talking to Trump administration officials, insisting that any agreement must be achieved in a multilateral framework and guaranteed by the UN, while rejecting the US role as sole mediator in the lingering dispute.

READ MORE: US cuts to UN refugee agency an ‘attack on Palestinians & intl law’ – Palestinian FM

Abbas vowed not to support any peace plan crafted by the US, since it “chose to be biased” by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and subsequently moving a US embassy there. The Palestinian authorities insist that any peace plan should be based on UN resolutions and clearly envisage East Jerusalem as a future Palestinian capital.

“Instead of working for a genuine peace, the US administration is destroying the chances of peace and undermining its own credibility and standing on all levels,” Ashrawi said.

The latest measure is in line with an ongoing Trump administration crackdown on Palestine and its people. Earlier this month, the US withdrew funding from the Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and in August, redirecting over $200 million in funds earmarked for the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.

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