USA merges diplomatic office for Palestinians into Jerusalem embassy: Pompeo

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer with Ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee Dianne Feinstein

The consulate's stand-alone diplomatic mission has functioned as a quasi-embassy to a future state the Palestinians hope to establish.

"This decision is driven by our global efforts to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of our operations", Pompeo said.

The status of Jerusalem goes to the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. "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 U.S. Embassy Jerusalem", said Pompeo.

Pompeo denied the decision represented a shift in relations between Washington and the Palestinians, but it came after a series of moves, including shuttering the Palestinian mission in Washington, that have angered them.

"The US administration has fully endorsed Israeli narratives on al-Quds, Palestinian refugees and settlements", he stated on Thursday.

The status of Jerusalem is one of the thorniest disputes between Israel and the Palestinians and Palestinian leaders accused Trump of sowing instability by overturning decades of US policy.

In September, the Trump administration closed the Palestine Liberation Organization's office Washington, DC, in part for its refusal to enter peace negotiations with Israel.

Relations between the sides have been tense since President Donald Trump chose to move the USA embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, recognising the city as Israel's capital despite its status being disputed by the worldwide community and Palestinian claims that East Jerusalem should be the capital of their own state as part of a negotiated two-state solution.

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Member of the Knesset Michael Oren, who serves as deputy minister of diplomacy in the Prime Minister's Office, said Israel is "deeply grateful".

"A great day for Israel, Jerusalem, and the United States", he wrote.

Last month, the administration ordered the closure of the Palestinian diplomatic mission in Washington, citing USA law that mandates its closure unless credible peace talks with Israel are underway. The announcement "closing the US consulate in Jerusalem and transferring its responsibilities to the embassy ends the last vestige of American support for the city's division".

The Palestinians, who cut off almost all contacts with the Trump administration after it recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital late previous year, meanwhile, quickly denounced it. "Israel is deeply grateful", Oren tweeted.

Nabil Shaath, the worldwide affairs adviser to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said it was a "very bad decision" that violated past agreements and continued President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital. "Symbolically, it was the last toehold for the Palestinians in Jerusalem", he said. "He is practically saying Jerusalem is for Israel", Israel Hayom quoted Shaath as saying. "This decision has nothing to do with peace".

In December 2017, United Nations member states voted decisively at the General Assembly in favour of a resolution effectively declaring USA recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital to be "null and void" and demanding it be cancelled. The US has also slashed funding for the Palestinians by hundreds of millions of dollars.

Since he became US ambassador to Israel, Friedman, a longtime supporter and fundraiser for the West Bank settlement movement, had argued he should have authority over the consulate, which for decades has operated differently than nearly every other USA consulate around the world.

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