United States downgrades Jerusalem diplomatic mission to Palestinians

Prime Minister Scott Morrison

The United States will merge its consulate general, which serves Palestinians, with its new embassy in Israel into a single diplomatic mission in Jerusalem, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Thursday, drawing a quick rebuke from Palestinians.

"This decision is driven by our global efforts to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of our operations", Pompeo said. "It does not signal a change of U.S. policy on Jerusalem, the West Bank or the Gaza Strip".

Leadership Australia is considering the possibility of moving the Embassy in Israel from tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

The drafters of the plan, Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner, his top Middle East negotiator Jason Greenblatt and his ambassador to Israel David Friedman, have taken pains to say that the plan will not necessarily endorse Palestinian statehood.

Indonesia has warned Australia that moving its embassy to Jerusalem could undermine the peace process with Palestine. The Palestinians, however, see the city as the capital of their future state.

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Last December Trump shook the always-tenuous relationship with the Palestinians to its core when he announced he would recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, effectively ignoring Palestinian claims on the Holy City and breaking with the policies of his predecessors.

"I think people respect that countries will take positions on things from time to time", he said.

PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat also slammed the decision, arguing that "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".

Instead, Ambassador to Israel David Friedman will oversee USA diplomatic ties with the Palestinians. "He is practically saying Jerusalem is for Israel".

The talking points sheet attached to the tweet seems to be outdated: It begins, "Israel and the United States are committed to a two-state solution", but that is no longer the case.

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The administration in December recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital, ending a decades-long USA position that the status of the city should be determined in negotiations.

"The Trump Administration is part of the problem, not part of the solution", Erekat said.

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.

The candidate contesting the by-election for Morrison's Liberal Party, Dave Sharma, is a former Australian ambassador to Israel who was credited with the idea to relocate the embassy.

The merger will be led by United States ambassador to Israel David Friedman, a former Trump bankruptcy lawyer who has been a vocal backer of Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories, which are illegal under worldwide law.

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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.

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