US Downgrading Status of Diplomatic Mission to Palestinians

Consular office serving Palestinian Arabs will be merged with US Embassy to Israel, sparking outrage from PA

US Downgrading Status of Diplomatic Mission to Palestinians

The US Consulate located in East Jerusalem, which served Palestinian Arabs, will close on Monday and the offices will be moved to the new US Embassy in West Jerusalem. The Trump Administration is placing America's diplomatic mission to the Palestinian Authority (PA) under the authority of its Embassy to Israel. The move was denounced by the PA.

The move was pushed through by US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, who has long sought to close what was America's de facto embassy to the Palestinians. The US State Department resisted efforts to change the status of the consulate in the face of Palestinian pressure concerning negotiations over the final status of Jerusalem. Nabil Shaath, adviser to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said it was a “very bad decision” that violated past agreements and continued US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. “Now, he is cutting the last connection he is said to have with the Palestinian people. He is practically saying Jerusalem is for Israel,” Mr Shaath complained. “This decision has nothing to do with peace. It complicates peace and makes it impossible.”

The move means that the Jerusalem consulate will no longer have a separate channel to Washington to report on Palestinian affairs. Even so, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stressed that the closure did not signify a change in US policy concerning the final status issues, including the boundaries of Jerusalem. He explained that the merger of the consulate serving Palestinian Arabs with the US Embassy to Israel was intended to improve "efficiency and effectiveness."

Palestinian leaders, however, view the decision as a move against them by Trump. The PA froze contact with Trump’s administration after his 2017 decision to officially recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital. In light of that decision, Abbas has also rejected the US peace plan that will be presented after the April 9 elections in Israel, before it has even been officially formulated.

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