The United States officially downgraded its mission to the Palestinians on Monday by merging its Jerusalem consulate with the embassy to Israel, a move Palestinian officials have condemned, The Associated Press reported. The consulate had served as a de facto embassy to the Palestinians since the Oslo accords of 1993.
Rather than using two separate diplomatic missions to deal with Israeli and Palestinian affairs, the U.S. will now have only one. When announcing the merger in October, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that it was intended to improve “efficiency and effectiveness” and did not constitute a change in policy.
“This decision was driven by our global efforts to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of our diplomatic engagements and operations,” State Department spokesman Robert Palladino said in a statement on Monday. “It does not signal a change of U.S. policy on Jerusalem, the West Bank, or the Gaza Strip.”
But Palestinian leaders, who have boycotted efforts by the Trump administration to negotiate a lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians, reacted with anger to the move. Palestinian official Saeb Erekat condemned the move as “the final nail in the coffin” for the U.S. role in peacemaking.
“The consulate has served 175 years in Jerusalem-Palestine, its closure has everything to do with the fanatical ideology that rejects the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination,” said (added word) the Secretary-General of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Executive Committee.
“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 international law and its obligations under the law,” added Hanan Ashrawi of the PLO Executive Council. “It is an act of political assault on Palestinian rights and identity and a negation of the Consulate’s historic status and function, dating back nearly 200 years.”
Jason Greenblatt, the United States Special Representative for International Negotiations, slammed Erekat last week for sabotaging the peace process. “Saeb, regretfully you continue to deceive your people – you know nothing about the contents of our plan,” Greenblatt said.
In a landmark December 2017 speech at the White House, U.S. President Donald Trump asserted “that it is time to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.” He noted that in 1995, the Congress, by “an overwhelming bipartisan majority,” adopted the Jerusalem Embassy Act, urging the federal government to move the American embassy to Jerusalem, Israel’s capital, and that the Senate had, just six months previously, “unanimously” reaffirmed Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
In May 2018, the U.S. officially relocated its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.