State Department Will Keep PLO Office Open

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -

The State Department on Tuesday rejected calls by 32 congressional lawmakers, including Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz, to close the Washington office of the Palestinian Liberation Organization.

In a letter dated Dec. 18, the lawmakers called on Secretary of State John Kerry to revoke a waiver that allows the PLO office in Washington to remain open. They argued that Palestinian leaders encouraged violence against Israelis, including a wave of knife-wielding attacks in recent months.

“The United States government has an obligation to publicly denounce the PLO’s actions and should immediately revoke its waiver,” according to a copy of the letter posted on Cruz’s site. “Allowing the PLO to maintain an office in Washington, D.C. provides no benefit to the United States or the peace process.”

State Department Spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau confirmed that the department had received the letter and said Kerry would respond to it. “We believe that closing the PLO office would be detrimental to our ongoing efforts to calm tensions between Israelis and Palestinians, advance a two-state solution, and strengthen the US-Palestinian partnership,” Trudeau told reporters.

She said every U.S. administration since 1994 had used the waiver to keep the PLO office open.”We believe the PLO has a valid place … and we’d oppose those efforts” to close the office,” Trudeau said, adding that Kerry had come out against the attacks. Indeed, during his November visit to Israel to calm the tensions, Kerry described the recent Palestinian violence as terrorism that must be condemned.