The possibility of a cessation of American aid in the event of a Palestinian appeal to the court does not represent new policy, but has been set in American law for two years.
The Trump administration has warned the Palestinians that suing Israel in international courts would trigger severe steps by the US, including the closure of PLO offices in Washington and an end to economic aid to the Palestinian Authority (PA).
Israel’s Ha’aretz on Wednesday quoted Western and Arab diplomatic sources as saying that the message from the Trump administration was transmitted through the American consulate — and not through the White House or State Department — and consisted of a telephone conversation with a leading Palestinian official directly linked to PA head Mahmoud Abbas.
According to the report, President Donald Trump signed an order during his first week in office to execute a congressional resolution, drawn up during Barack Obama’s term, to move against the PA and Fatah if the Palestinians sue Israel.
“Despite that resolution by Congress, the Palestinian leaders were counting on petitioning the court as a means of halting the settlements. But the messages arriving from Washington in recent days made clear that any such step by the Palestinians would lead to a severe American reaction, so much so that some talked about returning the PLO to the list of terrorist organizations,” said the Palestinian source.
The Palestinian leaders have been fuming over the message from Washington, Ha’aretz reported, saying the new administration was attempting to sabotage the entire Palestinian strategy of recent years, which involves international lawfare and diplomatic struggles against Israel at international bodies.
Meanwhile, Palestinian sources in Ramallah conceded that no final decision to sue Israel in the international courts has been reached, because of the American threat.
The Palestinian leaders will be discussing the matter over the next few days, Ha’aretz has learned. “The American threat is significant,” the source said.
For several years the PA has been moving toward bringing Israel to the International Criminal Court (ICC) at the Hague for alleged war crimes and as a means of challenging the legality of the Jewish state.
The possibility of a cessation of American aid in the event of a Palestinian appeal to the court does not represent new policy, but has been set in American law for two years. At the end of 2015, a clause was added to foreign aid legislation, according to which the administration would bar the transfer of any funds to the PA if it initiates any investigation against Israel at the ICC or supports such an investigation.
According to US law, any Palestinian step at the World Court could lead to the closure of PLO offices in Washington. The Palestinians’ appeal to the court in 2014 and 2015 and their continued transfer of information to the prosecutors since then have delayed and frozen some US aid, but has not stopped it altogether.