JERUSALEM, Israel – The Trump administration has decided to relocate its diplomatic mission to the Palestinians, placing it under the authority of the US Embassy in Jerusalem. It means the Palestinian mission will no longer have its own separate channel to Washington.
Essentially, the US Consulate in eastern Jerusalem has been merged with the US Embassy there, and that move has pleased some while angering others.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the merge in a statement Thursday, saying it was based on "efficiency and effectiveness" and doesn't alter US policy.
"It does not signal a change of US policy on Jerusalem, the West Bank [Judea and Samaria], or the Gaza Strip," Pompeo said in a statement, adding that a new Palestinian Affairs Unit will be located inside the US Embassy in Jerusalem.
But some say it signals a downgrade of the US diplomatic mission to the Palestinians. In September, the Trump administration closed the Palestine Liberation Organization's office Washington, DC, in part for its refusal to enter peace negotiations with Israel.
"The PLO leadership has condemned a US peace plan they have not yet seen and refused to engage with the US government with respect to peace efforts and otherwise," State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert stated at the time. "As such, and reflecting congressional concerns, the administration has decided that the PLO office in Washington will close at this point."
Secretary General of the Palestine Liberation Organization and former chief negotiator for the PA Saeb Erekat said the move rewards "Israeli violations and crimes."
"The Trump administration is making clear that it is working together with the Israeli government to impose Greater Israel rather than the two-state solution on the 1967 border. The US administration has fully endorsed the Israeli narrative, including on Jerusalem, refugees and settlements," Erekat said.
Senior advisor to Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas Nabil Shaath called it a "very bad decision."
"Now, he is cutting the last connection he is said to have with the Palestinian people. He is practically saying Jerusalem is for Israel," Israel Hayom quoted Shaath as saying. "This decision has nothing to do with peace. It complicates peace and makes it impossible."
Member of the Knesset Michael Oren, who serves as deputy minister of diplomacy in the Prime Minister's Office, said Israel is "deeply grateful."
"A great day for Israel, Jerusalem, and the United States. SoS Pompeo's announcement closing the US consulate in Jerusalem and transferring its responsibilities to the embassy ends the last vestige of American support for the city's division. Israel is deeply grateful," Oren tweeted.