The State Dept. is planning to merge its long-serving consulate in eastern Jerusalem with the newly created US embassy in the western part of the Israeli capital, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced on Thursday. This step is viewed as yet another slap in the face of the Palestinian Authority and its chairman, Mahmoud Abbas, since the consulate has been serving Arabs from Judea and Samaria and from the eastern part of the city for decades.
The announcement also does away, for all intents and purposes, with the idea that President Trump was planning to turn the consulate into a US embassy in a new Palestinian State whose capital would be eastern Jerusalem.
“This decision is driven by our global efforts to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of our operations,” Pompeo said. “It does not signal a change of US policy on Jerusalem, the West Bank, or the Gaza Strip.”
“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,” the Secretary insisted. “The administration is strongly committed to achieving a lasting and comprehensive peace that offers a brighter future to Israel and the Palestinians. We look forward to continued partnership and dialogue with the Palestinian people and, we hope in the future, with the Palestinian leadership.”
Meanwhile, Israel’s Channel 2 News reported Thursday night that President Trump had sent a personal envoy on his behalf to Chairman Abbas on Tuesday this week. The envoy is a familiar face: Ronald Lauder, the heir to the Estée Lauder Companies and the president of the World Jewish Congress.
Lauder, who is no longer on good terms with his former friend Benjamin Netanyahu, was sent behind the backs of Trump’s other peace envoys, Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt. He also met with Saeb Erekat, head of the PA peace negotiations team, and Majed Fares, head of PA intelligence and Abbas’s close confidant.
Erekat, meanwhile, slammed the US merge decision in a press release that declared: “The Trump Administration is making clear that it is working together with the Israeli Government to impose Greater Israel rather than the two-state solution on the 1967 border.”
“The US administration has fully endorsed the Israeli narrative, including on Jerusalem, Refugees and Settlements,” Erekat said.