The Obama administration’s outreach to the Muslim world continued its strides forward yesterday when the State Department legalized the flying of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) flag on their DC mission. The PLO was once considered a terrorist organization by the US State Department up until the Oslo Accords were signed in 1993.

Despite allowing the PLO to fly their flag at their Washington mission, the State Department denies that is has upgraded their status. They have also allowed them to call themselves the the General Delegation of the PLO, though State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley stated that, “There has been no change in the status of the Palestinian mission here in Washington. It operates under guidance provided by the State Department.” He emphasized that “It does not have any diplomatic privileges or immunities.”

Improvement in relations between PLO, US,

The move came after a request by the PLO to fly their flag and change their name in accordance with policies in Canada and South America, and Crowley did note that the move symbolizes an improvement in relations between the US and the Palestinian Authority.

The policy change comes after the Fatah Central Committee, the central body governing Palestinian Authority policy, has officially endorsed a statement made by Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas refusing to engage in negotiations with Israel.

In spite of this, additional gestures are expected in order to encourage the Palestinians to sit down and talk with the Israelis.

Not everyone is happy with Obama administration policy in this regard, however. Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen came out strongly against the decision. “The US rewards his corrupt, autocratic PLO with more symbols of legitimacy, treating it like a sovereign state. On the other hand, Israel continues to be an indispensable democratic ally – but the US still refuses to move our embassy to Israel’s chosen capital,” referring to repeated US refusal to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Ros-Lehtinen was very clear regarding what she thinks should be done instead. “Instead of giving more undeserved gifts to the PLO, it’s time for us to kick the PLO out of the US once and for all, and move our embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, where it belongs.”