U.S. Palestinian mission to merge with Israel embassy on Monday
10:32, Mar 11, 2019
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In a statement issued on behalf of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), executive committee member Hanan Ashrawi said that the merging of the consulate with the embassy "is not an administrative decision".
When first announced by U.S. Secretary Mike Pompeo in October, the move infuriated Palestinians, fueling their suspicions that the U.S. was recognizing Israeli control over east Jerusalem and the West Bank, territories that Palestinians seek for a future state.
The Palestinian Authority (PA) froze contacts with the USA after President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital in 2017. However, the party's No. 2, former Finance Minister Yair Lapid, predicted that parting ways with the Palestinians would eventually lead to them having a state of their own alongside Israel.
But, as the State Department said, the move changes nothing and said the "efficiency and effectiveness" of its critical work helping all in Israel will be enhanced by a larger team of diplomats.
Trump's decision to move the embassy to Jerusalem broke with decades of global consensus that the status of the city must first be decided upon through negotiations by Israel and the Palestinians.
The White House is expected to unveil its plan for what Trump calls the "ultimate deal" - Israeli-Palestinian peace - sometime after Israel's April 9 elections.
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USA -sponsored talks between the Palestinians and Israel collapsed in 2014 over the latter's refusal to halt settlement building in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Now, that outreach will be handled by a Palestinian affairs unit, under the command of the embassy.
Haaretz noted that the Jerusalem consulate's previous work of submitting regular reports to the United States administration about construction and other developments in West Bank settlements will now also be overseen by Friedman.
The three-story Jerusalem mansion, with its arched windows and bougainvillea-covered walls, was where the unofficial USA envoy to the Palestinians lived and hosted Palestinian guests for Fourth of July parties.
The announcement from the State Department came early Monday in Jerusalem, the merger effective that day. The Palestinian Authority has preemptively rejected the plan, accusing the US of bias toward Israel.
The centrist Blue and White alliance spoke of working with Arab states to "intensify the process of separation from the Palestinians while ensuring without compromise Israel's security interests", its platform said. All U.S. Presidents until Trump understood its importance as our bridge to the Palestinian people.
The move is a risky strategy in the Israeli political spectrum with Mr Netanyahu surviving four terms based on his policy of not ceding land to the Palestinians, as have his fellow right-wing politicians.
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