USA to merge Jerusalem consulate general with new embassy

Liberal Candidate for the Wentworth by-election Dave Sharma

Instead, Ambassador to Israel David Friedman will oversee US diplomatic ties with the Palestinians.

Nabil Shaath, the worldwide affairs adviser to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said it was a "very bad decision" that violated past agreements and continued President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital. He had long sought to end the Jerusalem consulate's independent status but had faced resistance from within the State Department.

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

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo described the move in his statement as a merger of the new embassy and existing consulate in Jerusalem, and insisted it did not signal a change in policy towards Palestinians. "It does not signal a change of US policy on Jerusalem, the West Bank, or the Gaza Strip", the statement said.

But Mr Erekat, the PLO's secretary general, said the U.S. could no longer play a part in the peace process, adding: "The Trump administration is part of the problem, not part of the solution".

Pompeo denied the decision represented a shift in policy, but it came after a series of moves, including shuttering the Palestinian mission in Washington and moving the United States embassy from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv. The consulate has been unusual in that it operates as the de facto American representative to the Palestinian Authority. "The specific boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem are subject to final status negotiations between the parties".

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Israel's crackdown in Gaza left over 60 protesters dead in Gaza on that day alone.

Trump's embassy move represented a significant break in USA policy on the status of Jerusalem and the Palestinians have argued it endangered a two-state peace solution. "Ambassador Lauder is a friend of the President but he was not sent by the White House to meet with the Palestinians on the President's behalf - secretly or otherwise", National Security Council spokesman Garrett Marquis said. "This decision has nothing to do with peace". The Palestinians want the city as the capital of their future state.

The Palestinian leadership condemned Washington's decision. It also announced the closure of the Palestinian Liberation Organization's diplomatic mission in Washington over what it said was the Palestinians' refusal to engage in peace talks with Israel. This responsibility will now belong to a unit within the USA embassy, overseen by the ambassador to Israel.

However, the announcement follows the United States closure of the Palestinian Authority's mission in Washington DC in September.

Typically, the head of a consulate, known as a consul general, reports to the ambassador, who has "chief of mission authority" over all USA posts in the country. The closest comparable case to the Jerusalem situation is the U.S. Consulate in Hong Kong, which also has its own chief of mission who does not report to the U.S. ambassador in Beijing.


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