Arab American groups offer PLO office space if it’s shut down


WASHINGTON (JTA) — Arab American groups offered to host the Palestine Liberation Organization in their offices if the Trump administration shuts down the PLO representation in Washington.

“If your staff are shut out and forced to move, you’re welcome to use tables and have desks and internet in our office,” James Zogby, the president of the Arab American Institute, said Wednesday in a conference call with reporters.

Samer Khalaf, the president of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, also extended the offer.

The Trump administration says it is in the process of shuttering the PLO office, at least temporarily, because the organization has violated a U.S. law that triggers a shutdown if the PLO pursues actions against Israelis in the International Criminal Court.

The conference call came as nine Arab American groups urged Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to stop the shuttering of the office.

“Shutting down the PLO mission would undermine U.S. credibility as an honest peace broker just as President Donald Trump plans to advance ‘the ultimate deal’ to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; a deal that’s difficult to achieve even under the best of circumstances,” the letter said.

Two liberal pro-Israel groups, J Street and Americans for Peace Now, also have called on the Trump administration not to shut the office. “This foolish move undermines Palestinian Chief Representative Husam Zomlot, who has been a tireless advocate for a two-state solution and vocal public backer of the administration’s efforts to date toward viable negotiations,” J Street said.

APN noted that the Trump administration’s hands were tied by the law, passed by Congress in 2015.

“We are aware of the legal quandary facing the administration due to an unreasonable set of conditions that Congress posed for allowing the Palestinian mission to operate,” CEO Debra DeLee said. “We believe the administration and Congress can find a way around these conditions to advance the cause of Israeli-Palestinian peace.”

Pro-Israel groups have otherwise not weighed in on the decision. Israel’s government has said it “appreciates” what is an American decision to make.

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