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Continued Presence of PLO Office in Washington, DC Is ‘Violation of US Law,’ Members of Congress Declare

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A view of the PLO’s office in Washington, DC. Photo: Reuters/Yuri Gripas.

Two prominent members of the US Congress have urged Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Attorney General Jeff Sessions to close down the PLO’s office in Washington, DC.

In a letter to the two administration officials, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) called the US government to begin taking the necessary steps and instituting the necessary legal action to close the PLO office, citing the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1987.

“Thirty years ago, Congress found, as part of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1987 … that the PLO and its affiliates were terrorist organizations threatening the United States,” Cruz and Ros-Lehtinen wrote. “Congress therefore prohibited the PLO, among other things, from establishing or maintaining an office anywhere in the United States.”

They continued, “Decades of PLO actions have confirmed the wisdom of that conclusion. Congress has sought an explanation from the Administration as to the legal basis for permitting the PLO to maintain its office in the United States despite a clear statutory command to the contrary.”

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In their letter sent on Thursday, the two members of Congress asked for clarification on several matters, among them records of communications between the PLO office and the State Department, and “all Department of State and Department of Justice memoranda, white papers, and other policy documents relevant or relating to this issue, dating back to January 20, 2017.”

In May of last year, Cruz and Ros-Lehtinen introduced the PLO Accountability Act in the Senate and House respectively. Announcing the legislation, they argued that the PLO had failed to respect its commitments to peace with Israel, citing the continuing policy of so-called “martyr payments” to convicted terrorists and their families as a particularly flagrant violation.

The US “must send a strong message that there will be consequences for these actions by, among other things, closing down the PLO office in Washington, DC, and utilizing the range of tools available under current US law,” the two legislators declared at the time.

Cruz and Ros-Lehtinen also demanded the closure of the PLO’s office in the US capital in a Dec. 2015 letter to the Obama administration’s secretary of state John Kerry.

In November 2017, the US government was accused of backtracking after an earlier decision to close the PLO office was reversed, allowing it to remain open for at least 90 days. A State Department spokesperson explained that the US had instead “advised the PLO Office to limit its activities to those related to achieving a lasting, comprehensive peace between the Israelis and Palestinians”

In their letter of Thursday, Cruz and Ros-Lehtinen again emphasized that “the PLO office in the United States has existed and exists today in violation of US law.”

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