Palestinians remain undeterred by US move to protect 'Israeli crimes'

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Palestinian authorities will not be deterred from seeking International Criminal Court action against Israel, an official said yesterday, despite the Trump administration's plan to shut their de facto embassy in Washington in response. The decision to close the mission comes just ahead of the 25th anniversary of the first Oslo accord on September 13, sealed with a handshake on the White House lawn and meant to lead to Israeli-Palestinian peace.

Senior official Saeb Erekat said his office had been informed that the United States would close the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) mission, a move he described as designed "to protect Israeli crimes," as reported by Reuters.

"We reiterate that the rights of the Palestinian people are not for sale, that we will not succumb to U.S. threats and bullying," Erekat said in a statement. "Accordingly, we continue to call upon the International Criminal Court to open its immediate investigation into Israeli crimes."

The move comes after several financial measures the Trump administration has taken toward the Palestinians. The Palestinian leadership cut off contact with the Trump administration after the US president recognized the disputed city of Jerusalem as Israel's capital in December. The U.S. has announced it is ending its decades of funding for the U.N. agency that helps Palestinian refugees, slashing bilateral U.S. aid for projects in the West Bank and Gaza and cutting funding to hospitals in Jerusalem that serve Palestinians. A provision in a U.S. law says the PLO mission must close if the Palestinians try to get the International Criminal Court to prosecute Israelis for crimes against Palestinians. Former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in November that the Palestinians crossed that line two months prior.

Although the Israelis and Palestinians are not engaged in active, direct negotiations, Trump's administration has been working to mediate a peace deal that would end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Led by Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law and a senior aide, White House officials have been preparing a peace proposal they intend to put forward at an unspecified time. Trump has promised to pursue the "ultimate deal" between the Palestinians and Israel. However, such a deal is unlikely given Palestinian mistrust of his administration. The Palestinians were angered by Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital and to move the U.S. Embassy there, and have since rejected the U.S. as peace broker.

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