WASHINGTON (JTA) — More than 30 Republicans in Congress, spearheaded by presidential candidate Ted Cruz, called on the Obama administration to close the PLO office in Washington.
The letter, citing what it called incitement by Palestinian leaders during the recent spate of violence in the West Bank, said the administration should apply a 1987 law banning the Palestine Liberation Organization from operating in the United States.
U.S. presidents have waived the law since 1994, soon after the Oslo accords between Israel and the PLO, allowing the Palestinian body quasi-diplomatic status in the U.S. capital.
“Closing the PLO office in Washington, D.C., would send a clear statement that the kind of incitement to violence perpetrated by the PLO and its leaders will not be tolerated,” said the letter sent Dec. 18 to Secretary of State John Kerry and released last week to the media.
A State Department spokeswoman told Reuters last week that shuttering the office would be “detrimental” to U.S. efforts to encourage Israeli-Palestinian peace and a two-state solution.
President Barack Obama has called for an end to inflammatory language from the Palestinian leadership. U.S. officials also note the role that the Palestinian Authority security forces play in preventing terrorist attacks.
Cruz, a Texas senator who is among the front-runners in Republican polls for a presidential nominee, is the only senator among the signatories. The others, all members of the U.S. House of Representatives, include Reps. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., who led the effort in the House to garner signatures; Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., the chairwoman of the House Middle East subcommittee; Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y., the only Jewish Republican in Congress, and Dave Brat, R-Va., the Tea Party favorite who ousted the former majority leader, Eric Cantor, in a primary election last year.
The Zionist Organization of America, which has made Palestinian incitement one of its lead issues, praised the letter.
“The ZOA supports their position, since Mahmoud Abbas’ Palestinian Authority (PA) has never fulfilled its obligations under the Oslo Accords to outlaw terrorist groups, extradite terrorists, confiscate illegal weaponry and end the incitement to hatred and murder in the PA-controlled, media, mosques, schools and youth camps that fuels the conflict,” the ZOA said in a statement.