Congress Works to Shutter Palestine Liberation Organization D.C. Office

New bill demands accountability from terror group

Capitol dome reflects between the buses outside of the Rayburn House Office Building / AP
February 11, 2016

Congress is working to shut down the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Washington, D.C., office as punishment for breaching agreements barring it from sponsoring terrorism and inciting violence against Israel, according to a copy of new legislation obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.

An executive waiver signed by former president Bill Clinton in 1994 nullified laws prohibiting terrorist fronts from operating on U.S. soil and allowed for the establishment of the PLO office in D.C. The Palestinian delegation was tasked with helping to facilitate the implementation of the Oslo Accords peace agreement with Israel.

Lawmakers charge that, since its establishment, the PLO—which was designated by the United States as a terror group in 1987—has violated multiple agreements with Israel and the international community, thereby violating waivers permitting it to operate with immunity on U.S. soil.

The new legislation would alter U.S. anti-terrorism laws to classify the PLO mission in D.C. as illegitimate, according to a copy of the legislation, which was jointly filed in the House and Senate Wednesday by Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas) and Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R., Fla.) and Mark Meadows (R., N.C.).

The bill would further mandate that to retain its right to exist in the United States, the PLO must stop paying terrorists a salary, end its incitement against the United States and Israel, and enter into good-faith peace negotiations with the Jewish state.

"The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) has failed to live up to its commitment to a bilateral peace process with Israel, renounce violence, accept Israel’s right to exist, honor previous diplomatic agreements made by the Palestinians, and continues to circumvent a negotiated settlement with Israel by seeking unilateral statehood at the United Nations and from other countries, and continues to actively endorse terror," the lawmakers write in the legislation.

The United States must stop turning a "blind eye" to the PLO’s ongoing endorsement of terrorism, Cruz told the Free Beacon on Thursday.

"The Palestinian Liberation Organization has for decades been a relentless advocate for terrorist violence against the Jewish people," Cruz said. "The United States needs to make it perfectly clear to the Palestinians that this behavior is intolerable, and that we stand with our ally Israel," Cruz said.

"Closing the PLO office in Washington, D.C., sends the clear signal that the days of America turning a blind eye to the militant anti-Semitism of this organization are over, and that we will no longer allow political correctness to force us to host terrorist organizations in Washington, D.C," he said.

A U.S. federal court determined last year that the PLO is responsible for at least six terror attacks in Israel that killed 33 and injured 450, including U.S. citizens.

"The PLO office in Washington, D.C. was allowed to open in 1994, despite a prohibition in U.S. law, with the intention of implementing the Oslo Accords and facilitating a Middle East peace, but in the 22 years its doors have been open, the PLO has done nothing but violate Oslo and make the possibility of a lasting peace even more remote," said Rep. Ros-Lehtinen.

Both the PLO and the Palestinian Authority, which work closely with one another, have "violated commitment to not alter [the] status quo" in the region, "which was the basis of waiver status," the bill asserts.

Due to this behavior, the PLO should no longer be eligible to receive immunity from the White House, according to the legislation.

The United States continues to give the Palestinian government million of dollars in foreign aid each year.

The State Department is currently obligated to close the PLO’s D.C. office if the Palestinian government petitions the United Nations to pursue an investigation of Israel at the International Criminal Court.

The PLO pushed the ICC in January 2009 and January 2015 to open an investigation into supposed crimes committed by Israel in the "occupied Palestinian territory."

Both moves, the legislation says, have violated executive waivers granting the PLO permission to operate in America.

"There is simply no justification in allowing the PLO office to remain while Palestinian leaders openly incite violence against Israel, continue their efforts to delegitimize the Jewish State at the UN, and move forward with their scheme to achieve unilateral statehood at the UN without reaching a negotiated agreement with Israel," Rep. Ros-Lehtinen said. "The legislation that we have introduced in both the House and Senate will ensure that the Palestinians no longer get a free pass and will be held accountable for their actions."

The Palestinian government has further breached past agreements by lobbying for a seat on several United Nations organizations, the bill states.