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Washington to Merge Embassy with Consulate in Palestine, US Official

Washington to Merge Embassy with Consulate in Palestine, US Official

Thursday, 21 February, 2019 - 11:15
A man walks next to a road sign directing to the US embassy in Jerusalem, February 18, 2019. (Reuters)
Tel Aviv - Asharq Al-Awsat
The United States Consulate General in Jerusalem, which serves Palestinians, will be merged with the new US Embassy to Israel in March, a US official said on Tuesday.

The current Consulate on Beit Agron street will become a second house for US Ambassador David Friedman.

The official said the decision to create a single diplomatic mission was announced last October by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who did not provide any date for the merger, which he said is intended to “achieve significant efficiencies and increase effectiveness” of the US mission.

“We will continue to conduct a full range of reporting, outreach, and programming in the West Bank and Gaza as well as with Palestinians in Jerusalem through a new Palestinian Affairs Unit inside US Embassy Jerusalem,” said Pompeo.

The unit will continue to operate out of the building that currently houses the consulate.

“The merger of the consulate and the embassy will take place on March 4 or 5,” revealed the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the date has not been announced yet by Washington.

Israeli journalist Barak Ravid quoted US sources as saying that the consulate building, established more than 175 years ago, will be the home of the US ambassador, who will divide his time between his residence in Herzliya, near Tel Aviv, and the second residence.

The journalist explained that closing the consulate would affect the situation of Palestinians and that “services provided to them would be reduced, so that the consul-in-charge would be in charge of the Palestinian affairs unit at the US embassy in Israel.”

The consulate general in Jerusalem is the top mission for Palestinians, who with broad international backing seek East Jerusalem as the capital of a state they want to establish in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip, according to Reuters.

Earlier, member of the executive committee of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) Saeb Erekat denounced Pompeo’s announcement to eliminate the consulate as the latest evidence the Trump administration is working with Israel to impose a “Greater Israel” rather than a two-state solution.

Asked on Tuesday about the merger, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, told Reuters that nothing had changed from their point of view.

“Contacts at the political level with the American administration have been cut off and will remain so unless the American administration changes its positions on Jerusalem and the refugees.”

Trump outraged the Arab world and stoked international concern by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December 2017, and moving the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in May. Palestinian leaders suspended ties with the US administration after the embassy move.

They declared their rejection of US mediation in any negotiations aimed at moving the so-called "peace process" in view of Israel's apparent US bias.

The US launched a series of punitive measures for the Palestinians, shutting down PLO offices in Washington, and cutting off financial aid to the Authority and the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).

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