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US Consulate merges with embassy in Jerusalem

March 4, 2019 3:10 P.M. (Updated: March 7, 2019 3:29 P.M.)
JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- The United States Embassy merged the activities of the consulate into the embassy building in Jerusalem, aiming to "form a single diplomatic mission," on Monday.

The consulate had primarily served Palestinians, living in Jerusalem, and was the main channel of communication throughout the years between the US administration and the Palestinian leadership.

The controversial move means that the consulate will stop acting as an independent diplomatic mission and the Palestinians will be forced to work with an entity that is subordinate to US Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, a supporter of the illegal settlement expansion.

US Deputy State Department spokesperson, Robert Palladino, said in a statement, "There will be complete continuity of US diplomatic activity and consular services during and after the merger."

He added, "We will continue to conduct all of the diplomatic and consular functions previously performed by US Embassy Jerusalem."

He also mentioned that a US Embassy “Palestinian Affairs Unit” will serve Palestinians living in Jerusalem through the previous consulate building on the Agron Road location.

Palladino pointed out, "This decision was driven by our global efforts to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of our diplomatic engagements and operations, It does not signal a change of US policy on Jerusalem, the West Bank or the Gaza Strip."

"The United States continues to take no position on final status issues, including boundaries or borders,” Palladino noted.
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Palestinians demand East Jerusalem as the capital of their future independent state, while Israel yearns for the recognition of Jerusalem as its capital.

Palestinians have cut ties with the US Trump administration and labeled the administration as unfit to be a mediator between the Israelis and Palestinians due to its bias policies.

The US administration recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital in December 2017 and relocated its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in May 2018.

Hanan Ashrawi, Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) Executive Committee Member, said in a statement that merging the US Consulate in Jerusalem with the US Embassy to Israel is “not an administrative decision. 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 two hundred years.”

The fate of Jerusalem has been a focal point of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for decades, with numerous tensions arising over Israeli threats regarding the status of non-Jewish religious sites in the city, and the "Judaization" of East Jerusalem through settlement construction and mass demolitions of Palestinian homes.
International consensus has been that Jerusalem's status should be settled in a peace deal and recognizing it as a capital for either side would prejudice one party over the other. So far, the US and Guatemala have moved their embassies to Jerusalem, in addition to Australia, whose prime minister recently announced that it is considering recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moving its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

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