Palestinians furious as US merges authority's diplomatic mission in Jerusalem into Israeli embassy
The United States has placed its main diplomatic mission to the Palestinians under the authority of the US embassy in Israel, a downgrade that has sparked uproar among the West Bank leadership.
US secretary of state Mike Pompeo said the consulate general, which is currently a separate office in Jerusalem, would be closed down and replaced by a new Palestinian Affairs Unit inside their embassy which the US controversially moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem earlier this year.
The move would effectively mean the Palestinians are forced to recognise the USâ s decision to label Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. It would also make David Friedman, the US ambassador to Israel, who is hated by Palestinians over his support for Israeli settlements in the West Bank, the main interlocutor with the Palestinian leadership.
It follows a series of decisions by President Donald Trump that the Palestinians say proves the Americans have sided with Israel and are no longer objective mediators.
Mr Pompeo defended the change, saying that it would be more âefficientâ.
âThis decision is driven by our global efforts to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of our operations. It does not signal a change of US policy,â he said.
He added the United States âcontinues to take no positionâ on how any peace deal between the Israelis and Palestinians would take shape.
In Israel, the move was celebrated.
Michael Oren, deputy minister for diplomacy and a former Israeli ambassador to the US, said it was âgreat day for Israel, Jerusalem and the USâ.
âClosing the US consulate in Jerusalem and transferring its responsibilities to the embassy ends the last vestige of American support for the cityâs division. Israel is deeply grateful.â he wrote on Twitter.
But it sparked fury among the Palestinian leadership that dismissed the decision as part of a plan to ârewardâ Israel.
Saeb Erekat, Palestinianâs chief negotiator said âIt has a lot to do with pleasing an ideological US team that is willing to disband the foundations of American foreign policy, and of the international system, in order to reward Israeli violations and crimes.â
âThe Trump administration is part of the problem, not part of the solution,â he added.
Nabil Shaath, an adviser to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said it was a âvery bad decisionâ that violated past agreements and continued Mr Trumpâs decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israelâs capital.
âNow, he is cutting the last connection he is said to have with the Palestinian people. He is practically saying Jerusalem is for Israel. This decision has nothing to do with peace. It complicates peace and makes it impossible,â he said.
Mr Trump faced international backlash for a December decision to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, recognising it as Israelâs capital.