U.S. May Lay Off Palestinian Security Guards After Embassy Move to Jerusalem

The opening of the Jerusalem embassy requires new security arrangements, meaning guards will have to be armed, but Israel does not issue weapons permits for Palestinians guards. Embassy: no layoffs planned

File photo, US Consulate in Jerusalem.
Magister / CC-BY-SA-3.0

Dozens of Palestinian security guards employed by the United States consulates in Jerusalem may be dismissed because of changes to the American security arrangements in the city after the move of the U.S. Embassy to the city in May.

For many years the consulates in both West and East Jerusalem employed numerous unarmed Palestinian security guards. Haaretz has learned that now that the embassy has moved to the city, the security demands for the U.S. facilities have changed and require more armed guards.

The Israeli authorities will not grant weapons permits to Palestinian guards, and as a result guards have been told in recent weeks that they may be fired.

The embassy said it is not planning to dismiss security guards.

According to a source familiar with the issue, the Palestinian guards could continue to work in the consulates that remain open on both sides of the city as well as in the living quarters of the consular staff, but not in the embassy in the city’s Arnona neighborhood. 

The problem is that security guards are frequently moved from facility to facility and because of the security requirements for the embassy and the ambassador himself, it will be difficult to retain guards who cannot carry weapons.

Sources say that over the past few days the guards, some of whom have been employed at the Jerusalem consulates for years are holding talks with their employers in an effort to secure work for at least some of them at other American diplomatic offices.

The U.S. Embassy said in response: “The U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem is actively hiring new security guards; we are not planning layoffs. The local guards are a valued part of the U.S. Embassy staff.”

A source in the Jerusalem embassy added that “while I cannot comment on specific security requirements for U.S. diplomatic missions, I want to make it clear that our diplomatic missions comply with all U.S. laws and also the local laws in the countries in which they are located. In Israel, this includes laws related to weapons permits.”