Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced Thursday the U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem will merge operations with the U.S. Embassy, a move Palestinian leaders say is out of step for a two-state solution.
Pompeo said the creation of a single diplomatic mission would “achieve significant efficiencies and increase our effectiveness.”
“It does not signal a change of U.S. policy on Jerusalem, the West Bank, or the Gaza Strip,” he said.
The U.S. Consulate General traditionally serves Palestinians.
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Thursday’s announcement came five months after the United States moved the embassy in Israel from the internationally recognized capital of Tel Aviv to Israel’s self-proclaimed capital of Jerusalem. While Israel lauded the transfer of the embassy, it’s been roundly condemned by many Arab countries.
Palestinians regard East Jerusalem as the potential capital of a future Palestinian state and oppose any suggestion that Jerusalem should be recognized as Israel’s capital. The U.S. Embassy had been located in Tel Aviv since 1948, when Israel was established as a sovereign country.
The opening ceremony on May 14 was marred by violent protests that killed more than 50 Palestinians, including five children under the age of 18.
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The merging of the consulate and embassy appears to have exacerbated the tension over the embassy move.
“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,” Palestine Liberation Organization Secretary-General Saeb Erekat said after Pompeo’s announcement.
“The U.S. administration has fully endorsed the Israeli narrative, including on Jerusalem, refugees and settlements,” he added.
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Pompeo said the U.S. diplomatic mission would continue to work with Palestinian communities.
“We will continue to conduct a full range of reporting, outreach, and programming in the West Bank and Gaza as well as with Palestinians in Jerusalem through a new Palestinian Affairs Unit inside U.S. Embassy Jerusalem. That unit will operate from our Agron Road site in Jerusalem.”
Last month, President Donald Trump said he supports a two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians and expects to have a peace plan ready in a matter of weeks.
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“I like the two-state solution,” he said after a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York City. “That’s what I think works best. I don’t even have to speak to anybody. That’s my feeling.”
The president said the embassy move to Jerusalem has paid off.
“That’s been something that, I guess, was controversial, but it’s turned out to be very positive in many ways,” he said. “And a lot of progress is being made in many other areas.”
In July, the State Department said it awarded a firm in Maryland a $21.2 million contract for new construction at the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem, up from the $250,000 Trump said he cut the budget to for the building.