For the last few weeks, President Trump has been threatening to close the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) mission in Washington, D.C. The threats follow revelations that Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas is trying to get the International Criminal Court to investigate Israel for war crimes.

Phyllis Bennis, who directs the New Internationalism project at the Institute for Policy Studies, told the Real News Network that the threat isn’t just about the investigation. Instead, it’s an effort to pressure the Palestinians into going back to the negotiating table with Israel on unfavorable terms.

“What I think is going on here is that the U.S. is preparing to force the Palestinians to accept negotiations on terms that they would never accept,” Bennis explained. Those terms “will not be based on international law, human rights, [and] equality, but will be based on maintaining Israeli power, Israeli apartheid, Israeli occupation all under the support of the United States,” says Bennis.

“It’s really being used as a club,” Bennis continued, “as a means of pressuring the PLO to say, ‘We’re going to force you to accept negotiations that you would never be willing to accept,’ negotiations that will not lead to an independent Palestinian state… And if you don’t accept that, we have this punishment that we’re threatening to impose.’”

Meanwhile, in what Bennis calls “a little bromance,” Jared Kushner, son-in-law and senior advisor to President Trump, and Mohammed Bin Salman, crown prince of Saudi Arabia, have been meeting over the last few months to hammer out a regional anti-Iran coalition that would include Israel — a development that would’ve once been unthinkable. But as Real News host Aaron Maté put it, “for the Saudis to enter into an alliance with Israel, they need the Palestinians to stay quiet.” Bennis agreed that was “very true.”

With the Saudi-led war (and U.S.-backed) war in Yemen racking up casualties and factions in Lebanon uniting to resist Saudi interference, however, not all countries in the region are on board with Saudi hegemony. “Iran and Saudi Arabia have long had a kind of cold war relationship as they each seek regional dominance, but the militarization of that crisis” is a “relatively new phenomenon,” Bennis said. “And I think that it’s clear that not all of the Arab countries are prepared to go along with this.”

Watch the interview on the Real News Network.

Phyllis Bennis directs the New Internationalism project at the Institute for Policy Studies.

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