WASHINGTON – The Trump administration is considering changing the status of the American Consulate General in Jerusalem, and turning it into part of the new American embassy in the city, according to a report published on Friday by the Associated Press.
Such a move would mean that Palestinian residents of Jerusalem, who constitute almost 40% of the city’s population, and the Palestinian political leadership in the West Bank, would not have an American diplomatic mission that primarily serves them, but rather would be served through the American embassy to Israel.
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The report stated that no decision has been made on the subject yet, but that Ambassador David Friedman has been pushing for changes to the Consulate’s mandate. Historically, the Consulate, which is located on Agron Road in downtown Jerusalem, has operated separately and independently from the embassy in Israel, and has mostly served Americans residing in Jerusalem, Palestinian residents of the city, and also Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. It has also been the main American point of contact for the Palestinian political leadership in the West Bank, which does not want to work through the American embassy in Israel.
The changes, reportedly being promoted by Friedman, could further complicate America’s relationship with the Palestinians, which is already at an historical low. The Palestinian Authority views Friedman, who has strong ties to the settlement movement in the West Bank and a history of far-right comments on the Palestinian issue, as biased towards Israel and hostile to the Palestinian people. It is highly unlikely that they would want to work with a consulate that reports directly to him.
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As it stands now, the consulate in Agron Road enjoys a special status, shared only by a handful of other American diplomatic missions around the world: it reports directly to the State Department in Washington, and not to the closest embassy, which is the one in Israel. This has allowed the Palestinians to have a way of communicating with the United States without going through Israel.
The State Department said in reply to the report that "Consulate General Jerusalem continues to operate as an independent mission with an unchanged mandate from its historic Agron Road location."
U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem, 18 Agron RoadMagister / CC-BY-SA-3.0