Palestinians slam USA decision to close al-Quds consulate

Liberal Candidate for the Wentworth by-election Dave Sharma

Pompeo says Thursday's merger announcement "does not signal a change of US policy on Jerusalem, the West Bank, or the Gaza Strip" and emphasized that the United States "continues to take no position on final status issues, including boundaries or borders".

Announcing the new diplomatic framework Thursday, the State Department said it was merely a continuation of the embassy's transition to Jerusalem and is aimed at streamlining operations in the region.

Last December, President Donald Trump, a long-time pro-Israel advocate, recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, prompting Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas to boycott his administration.

The State 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. "It does not signal a change of USA policy", Pompeo said in a statement.

Since then the Trump administration has forced the Palestinians to shutter their Washington mission and has slashed hundreds of millions of dollars in aid, in a bid to force them to the negotiating table.

The consulate-general in Jerusalem is the top mission for Palestinians, who want East Jerusalem for their capital.

More than 200,000 Israelis now live in the Palestinian eastern part of the city and its future is one of the thorniest issues in the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

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Relations between the sides have been tense since President Donald Trump made a decision to move the USA embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, recognising the city as Israel's capital despite its status being disputed by the global community and Palestinian claims that East Jerusalem should be the capital of their own state as part of a negotiated two-state solution.

Protesters vent their anger at the inauguration of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem in May 14.

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

Abbas said he gave Lauder, who was once close to Netanyahu and is a friend of Trump, his commitment to participate in the channel of communication, but that nothing ever came of it, Beilin told The Times of Israel at the time.

The consulate downgrade is just the latest in a series of decisions by Trump that the Palestinians say shows bias against them.

Since the fallout over Trump's Jerusalem recognition, the U.S. made a number of other moves that have been denounced by the Palestinians, including ending its contributions to the UN's agency for Palestinian refugees, infuriating Abbas and other Palestinian leaders. This responsibility will now belong to a unit within the US embassy, overseen by the ambassador to Israel.

Asked if the US government is anticipating security concerns in either Jerusalem or in the Palestinian controlled areas, the senior State official said there was no "imminent or particular threat" but that the safety of Americans overseas is the highest priority. The position of the consul general in Jerusalem, which has been independent of the ambassador, will be eliminated.

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