The Palestine Liberation Organization office in the nation's capital is closing.
In announcing the closure Monday, the State Department said that the PLO "has not taken steps to advance the start of direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel," reports The Washington Post. The move escalates the growing disharmony between the Trump administration and Palestinian leaders, who called the office's shuttering a vicious display of "collective punishment."
U.S. officials previously angered Palestine by recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and opening a new embassy in the city, and by significantly rolling back aid to Palestinian refugees. "These people have decided to stand on the wrong side of history by protecting war criminals and destroying the two-state solution,” said chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat.
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said that the U.S. still wants to see Israel and Palestine work to find a "way forward" through direct negotiations. The PLO office's closure represents the last of any symbols of Palestinian sovereignty in Washington, reports Axios. The office functions as an embassy in D.C., though the U.S. does not recognize a Palestinian state.
"PLO leadership has condemned a U.S. peace plan they have not yet seen and refused to engage with the U.S. government with respect to peace efforts and otherwise,” the statement from the State Department said. PLO officials accused the Trump administration of attempting to irreversibly damage the U.S.'s role in two-state negotiations. The office will close by Oct. 10. Read more at The Washington Post. Summer Meza