U.S. Closes Jerusalem Consulate, Causing Concern Among Palestinians and Their Advocates

Mar 11, 2019, 10:32
U.S. Closes Jerusalem Consulate, Causing Concern Among Palestinians and Their Advocates

"The attempts to merge the USA consulate with the embassy is a contradiction of worldwide law and specifically UN Security Council resolution 478 (one of several UN resolutions condemning Israel's attempted annexation of East Jerusalem) of 1980", said Issa. Right? Just as the USA has its embassy to Israel, the US had its own independent mission of diplomats who met with Palestinian leaders and officials and reported back to Washington on what was happening in the Palestinian territories.

The move, argued State Department deputy spokesperson Robert Palladino in a statement on Sunday, is "to increase the efficiency and effectiveness".

The move was first announced by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in October, sparking outrage among Palestinians that it constituted a de facto recognition by the US of Israeli sovereignty over eastern Jerusalem and the West Bank.

The downgrade is just the latest in a string of divisive decisions by the Trump administration that have backed Israel and alienated the Palestinians, who say they have lost faith in the USA administration's role as arbiter in any peace process.

A Palestinian protester uses a slingshot to hurl rocks at Israeli troops as others carry national flags during a demonstration near the fence along the border with Israel east of Gaza City
U.S. Closes Jerusalem Consulate, Causing Concern Among Palestinians and Their Advocates

Dennis Ross, chief U.S. negotiator with both Republican and Democratic administrations, criticized the move as "unfortunate" noting that the Palestinian public would read it "as a sign of indifference to them".

The US Consulate General in Jerusalem is the top mission for Palestinians, who with broad worldwide backing seek East Jerusalem as the capital of a state they want to establish in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip. However, the response he received from most of his hosts was that they would have little interest in contributing to the initiative until Kushner revealed his political cards on thorny issues such as occupied East Jerusalem, illegal settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, final borders, the fate of refugees and water resources. Now, that outreach will be handled by a Palestinian affairs unit, under the command of the embassy.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's main election challenger Benny Gantz has vowed to enact a policy of "separation" from the Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem.

"The Trump administration is intent on leaving no room for doubt about its hostility towards the Palestinian people and their inalienable rights, as well as its abject disregard for worldwide law and its obligations under the law", senior Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi said in a statement.

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The announcement from the State Department came early Monday in Jerusalem, and the merger was effective the same day.

The document says that the end of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, ensuring security and stability in the region will be possible only after the end of the Israeli occupation of the Arab territories.

Haaretz noted that the Jerusalem consulate's previous work of submitting regular reports to the U.S. administration about construction and other developments in West Bank settlements will now also be overseen by Friedman.

In 2009, pressured by the Obama administration, Netanyahu said he would accept a Palestinian state under several provisos.

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The consulate closure comes amid growing warnings over diminishing possibilities for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Palestinian leaders call it an attempt to blackmail them into accepting a plan that they believe will destroy their hopes for independent statehood. Some Palestinians view Friedman as biased in favor of Israel. "This is no mere technicality, it precisely reflects current United States policies: All things Palestinian are subservient to Israeli interests".

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