USA to merge Jerusalem consulate with new embassy

Sergio Conner
October 19, 2018

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in announcing the decision to merge the Jerusalem consulate into the embassy, said it was made to "improve the efficiency and effectiveness of our operations" and did not signal a change of policy.

Palestinian leaders responded to the closure by accusing the Trump administration of taking a step towards the recognition of "Greater Israel", a single state between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, and permanently abandoning Palestinian statehood. Instead, Ambassador to Israel David Friedman will oversee USA diplomatic ties with the Palestinians.

"The Trump Administration is part of the problem, not part of the solution", he added in a statement.

U.S. President Donald Trump outraged the Arab world and stoked worldwide concern by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital in December and moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in May.

The move was quickly condemned by the Palestinians and it could leave the United States as the only major power without a specific representative office dedicated to the Palestinians. "Symbolically, it was the last toehold for the Palestinians in Jerusalem", he said.

Pompeo's announcement came weeks after the U.S. shut down the Palestinian mission in Washington amid sour relations between the two sides.

Lauder, who is no longer on good terms with his former friend Benjamin Netanyahu, was sent behind the backs of Trump's other peace envoys, Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt.

Palestinians previously used the Consulate General in Jerusalem to obtain visas.

Merging the two USA diplomatic missions could pose further problems for Trump's Middle East advisory team.

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Senior advisor to Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas Nabil Shaath called it a "very bad decision".

In a March speech, Abbas even referred to Friedman as a settler and a son of a dog.

Last December Trump shook the always-tenuous relationship with the Palestinians to its core when he announced he would recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, effectively ignoring Palestinian claims on the Holy City and breaking with the policies of his predecessors.

In a statement, Pompeo said the merger of the consulate into the embassy is meant to "achieve significant efficiencies and increase our effectiveness". "It does not signal a change of USA policy", Pompeo said in a statement. The position of the consul general in Jerusalem, which has been independent of the ambassador, will be eliminated.

Saeb Erekat, the secretary general of the PLO, condemned the USA move.

Saeb Erekat, secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, claimed the decision to close the consulate was proof Trump's administration "has fully endorsed the Israeli narrative".

The administration, Pompeo said, remains "strongly committed to achieving a lasting and comprehensive peace that offers a brighter future to Israel and the Palestinians".

The announcement also does away, for all intents and purposes, with the idea that President Trump was planning to turn the consulate into a U.S. embassy in a new Palestinian State whose capital would be eastern Jerusalem.

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