US revokes visas of PLO ambassador’s family

Move comes after Washington ended aid to Palestinian institutions and moved its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Palestinian mission in Washington DC
Palestinian officials have condemned the targeting of the mission as 'vindictive' [Kevin Lamarque/Reuters]

The US has revoked visas for the family of the PLO’s ambassador in Washington, DC, the latest measure against Palestinian officials by the Trump administration.

Ambassador Husam Zomlot said his family, including his two young children, had left the US after they were informed that their visas, which were due to expire in 2020 were no longer valid.

The move follows the US announcement last week to close diplomatic offices belonging to the Palestinian Liberation Organisation, which will take effect next month. 

Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the PLO’s executive committee, condemned the decision to cancel visas for Zomlot’s family.

“As if the announcement that the US would close our office in Washington, DC was not enough, this vindictive action by the Trump administration is spiteful,” Ashrawi said in a statement.

Zomlot said in an interview that two of his embassy employees met last week with State Department staff, who had requested the meeting.

“The State Department informed our colleagues, as part of the discussion on the closure, that the visas of my wife and children are dependent on the PLO delegation and as such will not be valid after the closure of the office and that if they wanted to stay they would have to change their immigration status,” Zomlot said.

He added: “This goes against diplomatic norms. Children, spouses and family have nothing to do with political rows.”

‘Inhuman and immoral’

The move is the latest in a long line of sanctions imposed by the Trump administration on Palestinian officials and institutions.

In late August, the US cut all funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which provides for the welfare and human development of Palestinian refugees expelled from their homes by Israel during its founding, as well as their descendants.

The number of such refugees totals about five million people.

That same month the US cut $200m in economic aid to the Palestinians, which was being used for programmes in the occupied West Bank and besieged Gaza Strip. 

Even hospitals were not spared from the measures, with the US deciding to scrap plans to provide $25m to a network of six hospitals in occupied East Jerusalem.

The Palestinian Authority has called the withdrawal of aid “political blackmail” and an “inhuman and immoral action”.

The Trump administration justifies the measures by saying it wants to force the Palestinians to the negotiating table, but Palestinians believe the US is trying to strong arm them into accepting an unfavourable deal with the Israelis.

The US has always been Israel’s strongest ally, shielding the country diplomatically and supplying it with military aid.

The Trump administration, however, has taken on an even more aggressive stance against the Palestinians, which includes the decision to move the US embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. 

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies