US Jerusalem consulate-embassy merger upsets Palestinians

The U.S. says the move is meant to improve efficiency, but Palestinian leaders see it as recognizing Israel’s control over all of Jerusalem.

By David Jablinowitz, World Israel News

The United States is expected to move ahead with the downgrade of its mission to the Palestinians on Monday by merging its Jerusalem consulate with the embassy in Israel, a U.S. official said Saturday.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, when announcing the merger in October, that it was intended to improve “efficiency and effectiveness” and did not constitute a change in policy, though Palestinian leaders have seen the decision as another move against them by the Trump administration. The Palestinian Authority (PA) froze contacts with the U.S. after President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in 2017.

The U.S. is to “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,” said Pompeo in October.

The U.S. transferred its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem last May.

The current merger brings Palestinian Authority affairs directly under the supervision of U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, who will now oversee American diplomatic relations with both Israel and the PA.

The new unit replaces the Jerusalem consulate general, which has acted independently as a de facto embassy to the Palestinians since the Oslo Accords of the 1990s. However, the unit will be housed in the consulate building on Agron Street, which is situated between Jerusalem’s city center and the Old City, and not in the embassy, located in the Arnona neighborhood, said a U.S. statement.

In his announcement of recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Trump said the move did not mean that Washington was determining the eventual borders of the city.

His peace plan, which he calls the “deal of the century,” is expected to be released after the Israeli parliamentary election in April.