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In his first big policy speech as Trump’s national security advisor, John Bolton lashed out at the International Criminal Court and announced the feds were closing the Palestinian Liberation Organization office in Washington, D.C.
What’s this really about? Bolton has never liked the ICC—the international tribunal that prosecutes genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes—which he has said is a dangerous organization that threatens U.S. sovereignty. Now, the administration is peeved that the court was considering looking into U.S. actions in Afghanistan. But at the root of all this is a White House effort to reduce aid and stability in Palestine, which has been urging the ICC to investigate Israel for war crimes.
“[The United States] will not allow the ICC, or any other organization, to constrain Israel’s right to self defense,” Bolton said.
The administration has openly moved to cut off and provoke Palestine, including the opening of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem. It also recently cut funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency(UNRWA), which has been around pretty much as long as the conflict and helps some 5 million Palestinian refugees across the Middle East with health care, food and education services. The United States’ $350 million contribution was a third of the agency’s total budget. In August the U.S. also diverted more than $200 million set aside for Palestinian aid in the West Bank and Gaza and canceled $230 million allotted for stabilization efforts in Syria.
What about the peace process? What peace process? Tensions have only been escalating lately.
Clashes erupted this year along Israel’s heavily controlled border with Gaza, with Israeli soldiers killing dozens of protesters and wounding hundreds more, while Palestinians in Gaza have developed the dangerous and frustrating (though far less lethal), tactic of launching flaming kites that have caused wildfires.
The Trump administration says cutting off aid will bring Palestine to the table when the administration’s Middle East maestro, Jared Kushner, finally unveils his long-awaited peace plan.
Critics say the U.S. has just cut itself off at the knees, furthering destabilization, reducing its influence in the region and taking away a bargaining chip before anyone has agreed to show up to negotiate.