Palestinians to Consider Severing Israel Ties, Erekat Says

(Bloomberg) -- The Palestinian Authority vowed to reconsider its cooperation with Israel as it again accused the U.S. of taking sides in the stalled Middle East peace process.

Senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat told reporters in Ramallah that the full range of political, economic and security ties would be reassessed in the wake of the Trump administration’s decision on Monday to shut the Palestinian mission in Washington.

President Donald Trump’s National Security Adviser John Bolton said the move was triggered by the Palestinian leadership’s refusal to participate in talks with Israel. But Erekat denounced it as an act of blackmail, saying the U.S. could no longer be a mediator in the conflict.

The closure of the office was the latest step in a U.S. pressure campaign on Palestinian officials as Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is expected to release a peace plan in the coming weeks.

The move was, not surprisingly, praised in Israel. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the U.S. took “the correct decision” in closing the mission.

“Israel supports the American actions that are intended to make clear to the Palestinians that a refusal to negotiate and the attempts to attack Israel in international forums won’t advance peace,” according to a statement from the Israeli prime minister.

While Bolton was the first administration official to publicly discuss the U.S. move, he spent the bulk of his speech on Monday criticizing the International Criminal Court, which he said is too harsh on Israel. He warned the ICC, which the U.S. hasn’t joined, that it could face penalties if it “comes after us, Israel or other U.S. allies.”

Palestinian leaders have urged the ICC to consider action against Israel over its treatment of Palestinians, and Erekat said on Tuesday that wouldn’t stop.

“We will continue to pursue Israel in the International Criminal Court, International Court of Justice and United Nations General Assembly,” he said.

The U.S. administration has said it’s trying a new approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict after decades of failed peace talks, chipping away at the Palestinians’ key issues as it reshapes U.S. policy. Yet Palestinian officials view the new administration as biased in Israel’s favor -- and have cut contact with it.

Earlier this month, the U.S. halted funding of the United Nations agency that supports Palestinian refugees. UN ambassador Nikki Haley said the Palestinians’ major demand -- for millions of their refugees and descendants to return to lost homes in Israel -- should be ruled out, and called for increased pressure on Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

The U.S. has also moved its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. That was a victory for Israel and a blow to the Palestinians, who say it undermines their own claim to east Jerusalem as capital of a future Palestinian state.

Palestinian-Israeli security cooperation under the 1993 Oslo peace agreement helps prevent militant attacks against Israel in the West Bank. The Palestinians have repeatedly threatened to stop such cooperation accusing Israel of intransigence in the peace process.

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