JERUSALEM – In a move that angered Palestinians, the U.S. officially closed its consulate in Jerusalem on Monday, merging consular activities with the main embassy which was relocated to the capital in May.
The consulate has for decades served Palestinians as a de facto embassy and was the main conduit for communication between the U.S. and the Palestinian leadership.
The embassy will now include a Palestinian affairs unit under the jurisdiction of U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman.
“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.”
“As the President has stated, the United States continues to take no position on final status issues, including boundaries or borders. The specific boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem are subject to final status negotiations between the parties,” the statement said, adding that “the Administration remains fully committed to efforts to achieve a lasting and comprehensive peace that offers a brighter future to Israel and the Palestinians.”
The move was first announced by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in October, sparking outrage among Palestinians that it constituted a de facto recognition by the U.S. of Israeli sovereignty over eastern Jerusalem and the West Bank.
Senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat described the move as being “the final nail in the coffin” for the Trump administration’s efforts at a peace process.
Member of the PLO central committee Hanan Ashrawi said the move was not an administrative decision as claimed by the U.S. Instead, she said, it was “an act of political assault on Palestinian rights and identity.”