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Israeli leaders hail US merger of consulate and embassy, Palestinians condemn

JERUSALEM, Israel – US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced last week that it would merge its consulate and embassy in Jerusalem, a move that could have a major impact on the future of Jerusalem.

US Embassy street sign, Photo, CBN News, Jonathan Goff
US Embassy street sign, Photo, CBN News, Jonathan Goff

For years the US Consulate in Jerusalem has served as a de-facto embassy to the Palestinian Authority. That meant it answered directly to the State Department and bypassed the US ambassador to Israel. Pompeo’s announcement sends a signal that Jerusalem won’t be a divided city.

Now the consulate will come under the authority of US Ambassador David Friedman, which some consider a victory for him over the objections of the State Department.

US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, Photo, CBN News, Jonathan Goff
US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, Photo, CBN News, Jonathan Goff

Former Israeli Ambassador to the US Michael Oren hailed the decision.

In a tweet, he called the restructure a “great day,” saying it signaled US support for the Jewish state’s claim to all of Jerusalem. He said it “ends the last vestige of American support for the city’s division.” Israel, he said, “is deeply grateful.”

Former Israeli US Ambassador MK Michael Oren at this year's Christian Media Summit in Jerusalem, Photo, CBN News, Jonathan Goff
Former Israeli US Ambassador MK Michael Oren at this year’s Christian Media Summit in Jerusalem, Photo, CBN News, Jonathan Goff

But Palestinian leaders condemned the US decision to downgrade the consulate, which had served as a separate channel to Washington to report Palestinian affairs with a consul general whose authority was close to that of an ambassador.

“They are dictating the ideologically committed team of President Trump to take Jerusalem off the table,” chief Palestinian Authority negotiator Saeb Erekat said. “This to us is like another settlement outpost in occupied Jerusalem. This does not create any facts other than dismantling the two state solutions.”

PLO Secretary General Saeb Erekat, Screen Capture
PLO Secretary General Saeb Erekat, Screen Capture

Mideast analyst Pinchas Inbari says the move kills the idea of two capitals in Jerusalem.

“It meant that the consulate was for the Palestinian capital in the future and the embassy is for Israel,” Inbari told CBN News. “By uniting the two bodies in one body means that there is no partition of Jerusalem anymore and there will be no Palestinian capital in Jerusalem and Jerusalem is a united city as far as the Americans perceive it.”

Middle East analyst Pinchas Inbari, Photo, CBN News, Jonathan Goff
Middle East analyst Pinchas Inbari, Photo, CBN News, Jonathan Goff

The Palestinians want Jerusalem to be the capital of their future state. He says while the Palestinians are shouting, no one is listening.

“If you watch around no Saudi reaction, no Egyptian reaction, very mild Jordanian reaction, the only party that is reacting is Ramallah, not even the east Jerusalemites.  They don’t even care,” he explained.

The move is the latest decision by the Trump administration to change the status of Jerusalem. Last December, President Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and in May he moved the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. This decision will make it harder in the future for Jerusalem to be the capital of two states, one Jewish and one Palestinian.

US Embassy in Jerusalem, Photo, CBN News, Jonathan Goff
US Embassy in Jerusalem, Photo, CBN News, Jonathan Goff

This article originally appeared on CBN News, October 22, 2018, and reposted with permission.

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Chris Mitchell
Chris is CBN News Middle East Bureau Chief based in Jerusalem.

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