US to Merge Jerusalem Consulate in to New Embassy

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

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo described the move in his statement as a merger of the new embassy and existing consulate in Jerusalem, and insisted it did not signal a change in policy towards Palestinians.

The move will make the USA ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, who is reviled by Palestinians over his support for Israeli settlements in the West Bank, the main interlocutor with the Palestinian leadership. "It does not signal a change of U.S. policy on Jerusalem, the West Bank or the Gaza Strip".

"As the President proclaimed in December of a year ago, the United States continues to take no position on final status issues, including boundaries or borders".

"The administration is strongly committed to achieving a lasting and comprehensive peace that offers a brighter future to Israel and the Palestinians".

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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.

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

The announcement comes after the May 14 opening of the new embassy in Jerusalem, which had been required by USA law for almost 20 years. "Israel is deeply grateful". "The Trump administration is part of the problem, not part of the solution", the high-ranking Palestinian official said.

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"Now, he is cutting the last connection he is said to have with the Palestinian people".

Pro-Israel advocates hailed the decision, saying it confirmed the USA recognised the whole of Jerusalem as part of Israel. "He is practically saying Jerusalem is for Israel", Shaath said. "It complicates peace and makes it impossible". The Palestinians want the city as the capital of their future state.

In remarks to The New York Times, Daniel C. Kurtzer, an ex-envoy to Israel under Republican and Democratic administrations, said the Trump administration's decision regarding its mission for Palestinians in the occupied territories would certainly be counterproductive.

Then last month the USA announced the closure of the Palestine Liberation Organisation's diplomatic mission in Washington.

On September 13, the United States shut down the Palestinian mission in Washington.

Since he became US ambassador to Israel, Friedman, a longtime supporter and fundraiser for the West Bank settlement movement, had argued he should have authority over the consulate, which for decades has operated differently than nearly every other USA consulate around the world.

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.

Abbas said Lauder, who has been involved as a conduit between Netanyahu and Arab leaders for decades, floated the idea to him several months earlier, according to former justice minister Yossi Beilin, who was at the meeting.

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