The Trump administration will not longer have separate U.S. diplomatic posts for Israel and the Palestinians, said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a statement this morning. The U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem that services Palestinians will be folded into the embassy in Israel and headed by the U.S. Ambassador to Israel.
Palestinian leaders responded to the closure by accusing the Trump administration of taking a step towards the recognition of “Greater Israel,” a single state between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, and permanently abandoning Palestinian statehood.
Pompeo said the “single diplomatic mission” will assist Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem with consular support “through a new Palestinian Affairs Unit inside U.S. Embassy Jerusalem.”
The unit will be located at the former U.S. consular site on Argon Road in West Jerusalem.
The move does not change the U.S.’s position that “boundaries or borders” are a final status issue, Pompeo said.
“This decision is driven by our global efforts to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of our operations. It does not signal a change of U.S. policy on Jerusalem, the West Bank, or the Gaza Strip,” Pompeo continued.
Within minutes of the announcement, PLO Secretary General Dr. Saeb Erekat said, “This decision has nothing to do with ‘efficiency’ and a lot to do with pleasing an ideological U.S. team,” he said in reference to the U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, who headed a fundraising group for a West Bank settlement before taking on the role of ambassador.
“The Trump Administration is part of the problem, not part of the solution,” Erekat said.
Palestinians previously used the Consulate General in Jerusalem to obtain visas. As well, Palestinian-Americans living in the West Bank and Jerusalem went there for American citizen services instead of the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv, which aided Israeli citizens. The location has posed challenges, as Palestinians—even those with U.S. passports—needed special permits from the Israelis to enter Jerusalem.
For Palestinians, “It has always has been a problem to gain access to Jerusalem, period, east or west,” head of the Arab American Institute James Zogby said, “to some extent this encumbers U.S. citizen service that will be provided by the embassy.”
“Frankly the U.S. is making it clear that they have no interest to declare separate Palestinian sovereignty,” head of the Arab American Institute James Zogby said, “They ought to hang a welcome sign that says ‘welcome to the one-state solution’ over the door.”
Closing the direct diplomatic channel to Palestinians in Jerusalem comes just one week after the PLO Mission in Washington DC shut down by an order from the Trump administration, and transferring the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem last May.
Zogby described the recent measures as “moving the situation irrevocably forward to the one-state solution. Those who don’t recognize that are diluting themselves.”
“They used to say we are five minutes to midnight, we are now five minutes past midnight,” he said.