Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has announced that the two major diplomatic facilities in Jerusalem will be merged under the auspices of the newly relocated US embassy. The merger combines the embassy and the US consulate in Jerusalem. Pompeo said in his statement, “This decision is driven by our global efforts to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of our operations. It does not signal a change of US policy on Jerusalem, the West Bank, or the Gaza Strip.”
The facility that currently functions as a consulate will continue to house the main US-Palestinian diplomatic team in Jerusalem. Pompeo said, “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 US Embassy Jerusalem.”
President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December and moved the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in May. Palestinian leaders suspended ties with the US administration after the embassy move.
The announcement of the merger drew a quick rebuke from Palestinian officials. Senior Palestinian leader Saeb Erekat called the move the latest evidence the Trump administration is favoring Israel over a two-state solution. Erekat said that the decision had “a lot to do with pleasing an ideological US team that is willing to disband the foundations of American foreign policy, and of the international system, in order to reward Israeli violations and crimes.”
Palestinian leaders also accused the administration of sowing instability by overturning decades of US policy. For decades, the United States did not maintain an embassy in Jerusalem in deference to the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. Pompeo said in his statement, “As the president proclaimed in December of last year, 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.”