Outrage as White House u-turns on re-opening of US Consulate for Palestinians in occupied Jerusalem
The US Consulate in Jerusalem will remain closed for the foreseeable future, reports suggested, after the Biden administration decided to pursue "alternative steps" toward re-establishing US ties with Palestinians.
Instead of re-opening the consulate - closed by former US President Donald Trump in 2019 - the White House announced that Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Israeli and Palestinian Affairs Hady Amr would be elevated to the role of special envoy to the Palestinians, The Times of Israel reported on Sunday.
Amr will remain in Washington but make regular trips to the region, kicking the prospect of a fully-functioning consulate for Palestinians in Jerusalem yet further down the road.
An unnamed US diplomat told the Hebrew-language website that the Palestinian Affairs Unit (PAU), which is currently operating as part of the US Embassy to Israel, "was already de facto reporting directly to Washington, but the move was never formalised or announced".
The public announcement about the restructuring US-Palestinian relations comes just before President Joe Biden plans to visit Israel and the occupied West Bank late in June.
Last May, Biden vowed to reopen the consulate, an intention that was echoed by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken the following September.
However, Israel has opposed the idea at every turn. Former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his successor Naftali Bennett argued a mission serving Palestinians was an "infringement of Israel's sovereignty".
The consulate was in East Jerusalem, an area of the city occupied illegally by Israel.
Palestinians view the re-opening of a Jerusalem consulate as an important step towards improving ties with the US, which broke down after Trump recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
The Palestinian Information Centre said on Facebook that Biden's White House had "abandoned" pledges to open the consulate. One user posted underneath: "Who really runs America?"
Israel illegally annexed East Jerusalem in 1980 in a move widely rejected by the international community.
The United Nations recognises East Jerusalem as occupied Palestinian land, and Palestinians understand this area as being the future capital of their independent state.