Saturday, 15 December, 2018

U.S. to merge Jerusalem consulate with new embassy

And the prize for second-worst country on Palestinian rights goes Analysis
Deanna Wagner | 19 October, 2018, 08:25

The announcement also does away, for all intents and purposes, with the idea that President Trump was planning to turn the consulate into a USA embassy in a new Palestinian State whose capital would be eastern Jerusalem. He had long sought to end the Jerusalem consulate's independent status but had faced resistance from within the State Department.

Pompeo denied the decision represented a shift in policy, but it came after a series of moves, including shuttering the Palestinian mission in Washington and moving the United States embassy from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv.

"Other countries have gone to great lengths to avoid having the same representatives to Israel and the Palestinian Authority", he told AFP, pointing out even small countries separate their Palestinian and Israeli operations. It will remain in its current location, at least for now, the State Department said.

The Trump administration is announcing Thursday that it plans to merge its consulate general in Jerusalem with the US embassy in Israel into a single mission.

The merger is meant to "achieve significant efficiencies and increase our effectiveness" of the American mission, according to a statement from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

He said the U.S. has effectively killed the two-state solution that envisioned an independent Palestinian state in the occupied West Bank and Gaza alongside Israel.

Shortly after Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital, President Mahmoud Abbas announced the Palestinian Authority would not be engaging in any further peace talks with Israel involving the United States.

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Since the fallout over Trump's Jerusalem recognition, the USA made a number of other moves that have been denounced by the Palestinians, including ending its contributions to the UN's agency for Palestinian refugees, infuriating Abbas and other Palestinian leaders.

Michael Oren, Israel's deputy Cabinet minister for public diplomacy and a former Israeli ambassador to Washington, appeared to lend credence to that view in a tweet welcoming the step.

"We will continue to conduct a full range of reporting, outreach, and programming in the West Bank and Gaza as well as with Palestinians in Jerusalem through a new Palestinian Affairs Unit inside U.S. Embassy Jerusalem", the Secretary insisted. "Israel is deeply grateful". "The Trump administration is part of the problem, not part of the solution".

Pro-Israel advocates hailed the decision, saying it confirmed the U.S. recognised the whole of Jerusalem as part of Israel. "Ambassador Lauder is a friend of the President but he was not sent by the White House to meet with the Palestinians on the President's behalf - secretly or otherwise", National Security Council spokesman Garrett Marquis said. "It complicates peace and makes it impossible".

"Palestinians reject this arrangement", he said.

More than 200,000 Israelis now live in the Palestinian eastern part of the city and its future is one of the thorniest issues in the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

The move was quickly condemned by the Palestinians and it could leave the USA as the only major power without a specific representative office dedicated to the Palestinians. This responsibility will now belong to a unit within the USA embassy, overseen by the ambassador to Israel. In contrast, the consul general running the Jerusalem consulate historically had his or her own chief of mission authority.