US merges diplomatic office for Palestinians into Jerusalem embassy

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison

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.

In May, he moved the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, angering Palestinians, who claim East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

The State Dept.is planning to merge its long-serving consulate in eastern Jerusalem with the newly created USA embassy in the western part of the Israeli capital, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced on Thursday.

The former U.S. Consulate on 18 Agron Road, now a branch of the U.S. embassy of Jerusalem that will service Palestinians through a special "Palestinian Affairs Unit".

He said that the United States "continues to take no position" on how any peace deal between the Israelis and Palestinians would take shape.

Mike Pompeo said the decision was made for efficiency reasons and did not signal a change of policy on Jerusalem, the West Bank or the Gaza Strip.

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The Palestinians accuse the Trump administration of siding with Israel and since the Jerusalem announcement have refused to meet with Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt, the White House's point men on Israeli-Palestinian issues.

Erekat added: "To end the existence of the US Consulate therefore has nothing to do with "efficiency" and a lot to do with pleasing an ideological US team [and] reward [ing] Israeli violations and crimes".

The Palestinians, who cut off almost all contacts with the Trump administration after it recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital late a year ago, meanwhile, quickly denounced it. The official said it should not be construed as a rejection of the possibility of renewing peace talks with the Palestinian Authority.

Despite the vote, the U.S. went ahead with the embassy transfer on May 14, triggering angry protests in Gaza, the West Bank and elsewhere in the world.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison reportedly told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday that he had been considering doing the same - a potential move which, if enacted, would make Australia the largest country since the U.S. to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital. Israeli forces captured that part of the city from Jordan in 1967 and have occupied it ever since, claiming all of Jerusalem as the "undivided" Israeli capital.

"This is an irresponsible policy that comprise the future of millions of people in the Middle East for a handful of votes in Wentworth", Australia Palestine Advocacy Network president George Browning said.

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The American Israel Public Affairs Committee reemphasized its support for a two-state solution on Thursday as the Trump administration nears completion of a peace proposal that might stop short of recommending the establishment of a Palestinian state. "Symbolically, it was the last toehold for the Palestinians in Jerusalem", he said.

"Jerusalem is, always has been and always will be the capital of Israel, and recognition of this is recognition of an indisputable fact", she said. "It complicates peace and makes it impossible".

"A great day for Israel, Jerusalem, and the United States".

Pro-Israel advocates hailed the decision, saying it confirmed the United States recognised the whole of Jerusalem as part of Israel.

"Palestinians reject this arrangement", he said.

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