President Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, made two announcements in a speech to the ultraconservative Federalist Society on Monday that were designed to strengthen the U.S. relationship with Israel—further alienating Palestinians and much of the international community.

The speech, titled “Protecting American Constitutionalism and Sovereignty from International Threats,” was Bolton’s first formal address since his appointment in April.

As The New York Times reports, Bolton threatened to sanction the International Criminal Court (ICC) if it pursues an investigation of the actions of American troops in Afghanistan. He also announced the closure of the Palestine Liberation Organization office in Washington, D.C., a move the Times says is “linked to the International Criminal Court, which he said was being prodded by the Palestinians to investigate Israel.”

Bolton told the Federalist Society audience that “the United States will use any means necessary to protect our citizens and those of our allies from unjust prosecution by this illegitimate court.”

“We will ban its judges and prosecutors from entering the U.S.,” Bolton said. “We will sanction their funds in the U.S. financial system, and, we will prosecute them in the U.S. criminal system. We will do the same for any company or state that assists in an ICC investigation of Americans.”

Bolton has been an opponent of the ICC since his tenure in the first term of the George W. Bush administration, where he served as an undersecretary of state and then ambassador to the United Nations.

The Trump administration is closing the PLO office because, as the State Department said in a statement to The Washington Post, the PLO “has not taken steps to advance the start of direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel.”

The decision comes on the heels of months of strained relations between Palestinians and the U.S., including Trump’s decision to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, recognizing the contested city as Israel’s capital, and canceling most U.S. aid to Palestinians, including $25 million in funding for Palestinian hospitals in East Jerusalem.

In response, Palestinians withdrew from talks for a still-unformed, U.S.-brokered peace plan with Israel.

Palestinian officials, the Post reports, “vowed to fight what they called bullying tactics and ‘collective punishment’ of the Palestinian people.”

Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, told the Post that the Trump administration had “decided to stand on the wrong side of history by protecting war criminals and destroying the two-state solution.”


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