President Trump has made another historic and symbolic move, this time shutting down the Palestinian Embassy by shutting down the Jerusalem Embassy that served as a defacto embassy to the Palestinians.
Take a look:
Here's more on the story, from the AP:
The United States has officially shuttered its consulate in Jerusalem, downgrading the status of its main diplomatic mission to the Palestinians by folding it into the U.S. Embassy to Israel.
For decades, the consulate functioned as a de facto embassy to the Palestinians. Now, that outreach will be handled by a Palestinian affairs unit, under the command of the embassy.
The symbolic shift hands authority over U.S. diplomatic channels with the West Bank and Gaza to ambassador David Friedman, a longtime supporter and fundraiser for the West Bank settler movement and fierce critic of the Palestinian leadership.
The announcement from the State Department came early Monday in Jerusalem, the merger effective that day.
“This decision was driven by our global efforts to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of our diplomatic engagements and operations,” State Department spokesman Robert Palladino said in a statement. “It does not signal a change of U.S. policy on Jerusalem, the West Bank, or the Gaza Strip.”
In a farewell video addressed to the consulate’s Palestinian partners, Consul General Karen Sasahara, who is leaving her post as the unofficial U.S. ambassador to the Palestinians and will not be replaced, maintains that new Palestinian unit at the embassy will carry forward the mission of the consulate, “in support of the strengthening of American-Palestinian ties, to boost economic opportunities for the Palestinians and facilitate cultural and educational exchanges.”
When first announced by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in October, the move infuriated Palestinians, fueling their suspicions that the U.S. was recognizing Israeli control over east Jerusalem and the West Bank, territories that Palestinians seek for a future state.
Palestinian official Saeb Erekat called the move “the final nail in the coffin” for the U.S. role in peacemaking.
The downgrade is just the latest in a string of divisive decisions by the Trump administration that have backed Israel and alienated the Palestinians, who say they have lost faith in the U.S. administration’s role as a neutral arbiter in peace process.
Last year the U.S. recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and relocated its embassy there, upending U.S. policy toward one of the most explosive issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Palestinians in turn cut off most ties with the administration.
The administration also has slashed hundreds of millions of dollars in humanitarian aid to the Palestinians, including assistance to hospitals and peace-building programs. It has cut funding to the U.N. agency that provides aid to Palestinians classified as refugees. Last fall, it shut down the Palestinian diplomatic mission in Washington.
And from CNN:
On Monday morning, the US Consulate General in Jerusalem opened under a new name and a new boss.
What had functioned as the US mission to the Palestinians since the 1990s is now officially known as the Palestinian Affairs Unit.
Karen Sasahara, the Consul General, is out, and the new unit reports directly to US Ambassador David Friedman, who has supported Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.
The US insists that folding the Consulate General in Jerusalem into the US Embassy is all about efficiency, part of the Trump administration's efforts to increase "effectiveness of our diplomatic engagements and operations."
"There will be complete continuity of US diplomatic activity and consular services during and after the merger," read a statement from State Department spokesman Robert Palladino. "We will continue to conduct all of the diplomatic and consular functions previously performed by US Embassy Jerusalem."
The Palestinians are hardly convinced.
The Palestine Liberation Organization's (PLO) Executive Committee Member Hanan Ashrawi slammed the merger as one more step the Trump administration has taken against the Palestinians.
Trump has cut hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to the Palestinians, recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel before the conclusion of a peace process, moved the US Embassy to Jerusalem and now closed the diplomatic mission that worked with the Palestinians.
"The Trump Administration is intent on leaving no room for doubt about its hostility towards the Palestinian people and their inalienable rights as well as its abject disregard for international law and its obligations under the law," Ashrawi said in a statement Sunday. "It is an act of political assault on Palestinian rights and identity and a negation of the Consulate's historic status and function, dating back nearly two hundred years."
The consulate, which opened 175 years ago, has in recent decades provided diplomatic representation to the Palestinians. The Consul General there reported directly to the State Department. Meanwhile, the Israelis communicated with the State Department through the Ambassador. The unique arrangement provided two separate, independent lines of communication that allowed the US to understand and deal with sensitive issues in one of the most volatile places in the world.
Now, instead of functioning independently, the consulate has become a unit within the US embassy in Israel.
Both the Israelis and Palestinians will now go through Friedman, who is vocally pro-Israel and an advocate for Israeli settlements, which are considered illegal under international law.
When the merger was announced in October, former US diplomats Hady Amr and Ilan Goldenberg wrote in Foreign Policy calling it a mistake. "It damages the ability of the White House and State Department to get two separate, unvarnished accounts of how Israelis and Palestinians are responding to any given incident ... This is essential if Washington is to play the role of mediator in the conflict."
Many are wondering if this is Donald Trump's not-so-secret message to the anti-Israel movement in Congress:
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