Palestinians slam 'ideological' decision to close US Jerusalem consulate

Palestinians slam 'ideological' decision to close US Jerusalem consulate
Washington downgraded its diplomatic mission to the Palestinians and put it under Israeli control, a further blow to their rights under the Trump administration.
2 min read
19 October, 2018
The sign for the Office of the Palestinian Diplomatic Mission taken down [Getty]

The Palestinian leadership on Thursday condemned Washington's "ideological" decision to merge its consulate for Palestinians into its Israeli embassy.

The US placed its main diplomatic mission to the Palestinians under Israeli control, a further blow to Palestinians under the Trump administration.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the consulate general, a separate office which handled dealings with the Palestinians, would be replaced by a new Palestinian Affairs Unit inside the controversial new US embassy in Jerusalem.

The move will make the US ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, who is reviled by Palestinians over his support for Israeli settlements in the West Bank, the main interlocutor with the Palestinian leadership.

The change was quickly condemned by the Palestinians, who view US policy as sharply turning toward Israel under President Trump.

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

"This 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," Pompeo said in a statement.

But the Palestinian leadership rejected Pompeo's remarks. 

The decision 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," the Palestinians' chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said.

International powers have for decades maintained separate and autonomous representations to Israel and the Palestinians on the basis of supporting the eventual creation of an independent Palestinian state.

They have insisted that the status of Jerusalem, which both the Israelis and Palestinians see as their capital, should be negotiated between the parties as part of any end deal.

But Trump eschewed decades of US policy last December when he recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, prompting Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas to boycott his administration.

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 son-in-law Jared Kushner, alongside Friedman and peace envoy Jason Greenblatt, has been working for months on a still-secret peace proposal, which Palestinians fear will be overly one-sided toward Israel.

The move Thursday nearly closes off all direct diplomatic contacts between the US and the Palestinians, analysts said.

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