Palestinians slam 'ideological' decision to close US Jerusalem consulate

Cheryl Sanders
October 20, 2018

Palestinian officials today slammed the US' decision to downgrade its Jerusalem Consulate, merging it with the US Embassy to Israel.

The State planning to merge its long-serving consulate in eastern Jerusalem with the newly created U.S. embassy in the western part of the Israeli capital, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced on Thursday.

The move, which was immediately denounced by the Palestinians and hailed by Israel, is the latest Trump administration decision to align with Israeli government views and a victory for U.S. Ambassador David Friedman.

"The United States continues to take no position on final status issues, including boundaries or borders", Pompeo said in a statement. "It does not signal a change of U.S. policy", Pompeo said in a statement.

Tensions have been running high in the occupied Palestinian territories and the Gaza Strip since last December, when Trump made a decision to recognize Jerusalem al-Quds as Israel's "capital" and relocate Washington's embassy from Tel Aviv to the Palestinian city.

The decision has "a lot to do with pleasing an ideological USA team that is willing to disband the foundations of American foreign policy, and of the global system, in order to reward Israeli violations and crimes", the Palestinians' chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said.

"AIPAC remains fully supportive of direct negotiations leading to a two-state solution - a Jewish state of Israel living in peace with a demilitarized Palestinian state", the lobby said on Twitter and attached to the tweet its talking points on the two-state outcome.

Since then the Trump administration has forced the Palestinians to shutter their Washington mission and has slashed hundreds of millions of dollars in aid, in a bid to force them to the negotiating table.

Trump's embassy move represented a significant break in U.S. policy on the status of Jerusalem and the Palestinians have argued it endangered a two-state peace solution.

In December, President Trump upended decades of USA foreign policy by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

Pro-Israel advocates hailed the decision, saying it confirmed the United States recognised the whole of Jerusalem as part of Israel.

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.

Since he became US ambassador to Israel, Friedman, a longtime supporter and fundraiser for the West Bank settlement movement, had argued he should have authority over the consulate, which for decades has operated differently than nearly every other USA consulate around the world.

Ofer Zalzberg of the International Crisis Group think-tank said Thursday's announcement meant that the U.S. would be the only major power without a separate, independent representative office for the Palestinians.

The prime minister has played down concerns his comments about moving Australia's Israeli embassy to Jerusalem could affect trade relations with Indonesia.

And on September 13 the United States ordered the shutdown of the Palestinian mission in Washington, giving the employees another month to finish their work.

Other reports by iNewsToday