The Augusta Victoria hospital in occupied East Jerusalem on September 9. The US plans to cut $25 million in aid to six hospitals serving Palestinians in occupied Jerusalem. Image Credit: AFP

Dubai: The Trump administration’s decision to close the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) office in Washington was not surprising, and it sends a clear message to President Mahmoud Abbas that Washington is looking for other Palestinian peace partners, Palestinian and Arab political scientists said.

The decision, which comes days before the UN General Assembly meeting in New York, is expected to further complicate the situation and necessitates the stepping up of Palestinian efforts to take Israeli officials to international courts, they added.

The American administration wanted to send a message to Abbas that “the Palestinian leadership or the PLO leadership is not playing the game according to Washington’s wishes and that it doesn’t respond to its proposals,” Khattar Abu Diab from the Paris-based Council on Geopolitics and Perspectives told Gulf News.

Abu Diab said he interprets Monday’s decision as “a culmination of the pressures exerted on President Abbas, who is categorised by the US administration as immoderate… but of course, this would further complicate the situation and [make] the PLO [face] many challenges,” Abu Diab said.

Monday’s decision came a few days after the US cut most of its aid to the Palestinians and a few months after Washington recognised occupied East Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Moving the American embassy to occupied East Jerusalem provoked the Palestinians to withdraw from a yet to be released peace plan.

Legal action

Closing the office is “a big loss to the Palestinians in terms of diplomatic and international work. But it seems the US administration is trying to push the Palestinians to search for another leadership, so it can look for other Palestinian peace partners,” Abu Diab said.

President Abbas was planning to attend the UN General Assembly later this month to ask the international community to live up to its responsibility in dealing with the American bias towards Israel, and ask for international protection.

“The Americans also tried to frighten the Palestinians of the [consequences] of pursing legal action against Israeli officials,” Tarek Fahmy, head of the Israeli unit at the Cairo-based National Centre for Middle East Studies and a political science professor at the American University of Cairo, told Gulf News.

The Palestinians have called for investigation of Israel by the International Criminal Court (ICC). Neither Israel nor the US recognises the ICC. Taking Israeli officials to courts is a “very sensitive issue for the Israelis,” said Fahmy.

“It is obvious that the Palestinian moves were painful to Israel and the US,” Gassan Al Khatib, former Palestinian information minister and a West Bank political sciences professor, told Gulf News.

“I believe the Palestinians should not only continue with their legal procedures, but also expand the circle of their efforts against Israel in different international institutions and organisations,” he said.