United States downgrades consulate for Palestinians into Israel embassy unit

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer with Ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee Dianne Feinstein

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"We plan to achieve significant efficiencies and increase our effectiveness by merging USA embassy Jerusalem and U.S. consulate general Jerusalem into a single diplomatic mission", the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, said, adding that the move "does not signal a change of USA policy on Jerusalem, the West Bank or the Gaza Strip".

In a statement, Pompeo said the merger of the consulate into the embassy is meant to "achieve significant efficiencies and increase our effectiveness". "It does not signal a change of United States policy on Jerusalem (al-Quds), the West Bank, or the Gaza Strip", Pompeo claimed in a statement.

Once Trump recognised Jerusalem as Israel's capital, Abbas declared that the move had disqualified the United States as a peace mediator.

The Prime Minister goes on to say that the former Ambassador of Australia to Israel, Dave Sharma, suggested several months ago that moving the Australian embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv could allow for Australia to both, recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move toward a two-state solution.

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 USA embassy to Jerusalem last May.

Although Pompeo sought to portray the move as a bureaucratic management shift, the downgrading of the consulate has potent symbolic resonance, suggesting American recognition of Israeli control over east Jerusalem and the West Bank.

"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 change was quickly condemned by the Palestinians, who view United States policy as sharply turning toward Israel under President Trump.

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Morrison announced on Tuesday that the government would consider recognising Jerusalem as Israel's capital "without prejudice as to its final boundaries" and examine the merits of moving the embassy to the western part of the city.

"The PLO leadership has condemned a U.S. peace plan they have not yet seen and refused to engage with the USA government with respect to peace efforts and otherwise", State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert stated at the time. "Symbolically, it was the last toehold for the Palestinians in Jerusalem", he said. "It complicates peace and makes it impossible".

Trump, however, has offered confused and mixed messaging on the issue, saying Jerusalem is now "off the table" for any peace negotiations after he recognised the holy city as Israel's capital.

"The Trump Administration is part of the problem, not part of the solution", Erekat said. The US has also slashed funding for the Palestinians by hundreds of millions of dollars.

The Palestinian leadership condemned Washington's decision.

The unit will be located at the former US consular site on Argon Road in West Jerusalem.

A State Department official in Jerusalem, speaking on the condition of anonymity to brief the press, said, however, that the current consul general, Karen Sasahara, would return to Washington.

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