The U.S. Embassy merged the activities of the consulate on Jerusalem’s Agron Street into the embassy building in the Arnona neighborhood on Monday. Deputy State Department spokesperson Robert Palladino formally announced the merger on Monday morning.
The consulate had primarily served the capital’s Palestinians and was the main channel of communication over the years between the U.S. administration and the Palestinian leadership. The move means that the consulate will stop acting as an independent diplomatic mission and the Palestinians will be forced to work with an entity that is subordinate to U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman.
"There will be complete continuity of U.S. diplomatic activity and consular services during and after the merger," Palladino said in a statement. "We will continue to conduct all of the diplomatic and consular functions previously performed by U.S. Embassy Jerusalem." He added that a U.S. Embassy Palestinian Affairs Unit will serve Jerusalem Palestinians through the Agron Road location.
He added, "This decision was driven by our global efforts to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of our diplomatic engagements and operations, It does not signal a change of U.S. policy on Jerusalem, the West Bank, or the Gaza Strip."
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"The United States continues to take no position on final status issues, including boundaries or borders," Palladino said. "The specific boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem are subject to final status negotiations between the parties."
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The Jerusalem consulate would submit regular reports to the administration about construction and other developments in the West Bank settlements and outposts, a mission that will now also be overseen by Friedman, a longtime supporter of the settlement enterprise.
The Palestinian Authority is sharply critical of the move, seeing it as yet another way the Trump administration is undermining their status. The general-secretary of the PLO’s executive committee, Saeb Erekat, described the development Sunday as “the last nail in the coffin” of the administration as a sponsor of the peace process. Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the PLO central committee, said the merger, “is not an administrative decision. It is an act of political assault on Palestinian rights and identity.”
The Jerusalem consulate was one of the few American diplomatic missions to report directly to the State Department in Washington rather than to the closest embassy.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.