The United States closed its Jerusalem consulate that had long been viewed as its embassy to the Palestinian Authority (PA), the latest blow in the once healthy relationship with the Palestinians.
As the U.S. does not officially recognize Palestinian as a state, it does not have an embassy in the PA’s Ramallah. As such, the American consulate in the Arab Jerusalem coordinated all of Washington’s ties with the Palestinians while the other U.S. consulate in West Jerusalem dealt with traditional consular activity.
However, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the East Jerusalem consulate would merge with its Western Jerusalem counterpart and put its responsibilities under the auspices of the official U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem, a change which took effect on Monday.
While Pompeo said that the move was done for reasons of “efficiency,” the PA alleged that the decision to close their semi-official outlet to the Trump administration was just another move against President Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian leadership.
Saeb Erekat, a senior Palestinian Authority official, fumed that the change is “the final nail in the coffin of the US administration’s role in the peace industry.”
“The consulate has served 175 years in Jerusalem-Palestine, its closure has everything to do with the fanatical ideology that rejects the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination,” said Erekat.
Adding to the PA’s anger is the fact that their ties with Washington will now be managed by U.S. Ambassador David Friedman and not the consulate’s director-general as before. The Palestinians accuse Friedman of being overly friendly vis-a-vis Israel and refuse to accept him as an honest mediator in negotiations with the Jewish State.
“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,” said Hanan Ashrawi.
A member of the PA’s ruling executive council, Ashrawi called the decision to close the U.S. consulate in East Jerusalem “an act of political assault on Palestinian rights and identity and a negation of the Consulate’s historic status and function, dating back nearly 200 years.”
The Trump administration and the PA have been at odds ever since the U.S. recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in 2018, after which it transferred its embassy to the ancient Jewish city. The U.S. had historically refrained from recognizing Jerusalem as the capital until a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians was hammered out; the change infuriated Ramallah, which claims Jerusalem as its own.
Ever since, the PA has boycotted representatives of the Trump administration and has refused to collaborate on the latter’s “Deal of the Century” that aims to end their conflict with Israel.