USA closes Jerusalem consulate, demoting Palestinian mission

US Shutters Its Consulate in Jerusalem, Angering Palestinians

Malaysia is strongly opposed to the merging of the United States (US) Consulate General with its Embassy in Jerusalem.

The Consulate General in Jerusalem is the top mission for Palestinians, who, with broad global backing, seek East Jerusalem as the capital of a state they wish to establish in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

The move was first announced by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in October, sparking outrage among Palestinians that it constituted a de facto recognition by the USA of Israeli sovereignty over eastern Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Palestinian leaders froze contact with the White House after Trump's 2017 decision recognising Jerusalem as Israel's capital and castigated the consulate closure.

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.

"We will continue to conduct all of the diplomatic and consular functions previously performed by US Embassy Jerusalem", CNN quoted State Department deputy spokesman Robert Palladino as saying on Sunday.

Israel regards Jerusalem as its "eternal and undivided" capital, while the Palestinians claim East Jerusalem - occupied by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war - as the capital of a future Palestinian state.

Moscow will host a meeting of Palestinian and Israeli representatives - "without preconditions" - in hopes of reviving the stalled Mideast peace process, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Monday.

But the change means Washington's relations with the Palestinians will now fall under the authority of USA ambassador to Israel David Friedman, who has been a supporter of Israeli settlement building in the occupied West Bank.

The current merger brings Palestinian Authority affairs directly under the supervision of U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, who will now oversee American diplomatic relations with both Israel and the PA.

The consulate in Jerusalem had enjoyed a unique status reporting to the State Department nearly like an embassy itself. The Palestinian Authority has preemptively rejected the plan, accusing the USA of bias toward Israel.

A recent poll by the Israel Democracy Institute think tank found that a quarter of Israelis say their primary consideration in voting is the party's socio-economic positions.

Hanna Issa, secretary-general of the Islamic-Christian Commission to Support Jerusalem and the Holy Sites, told Arab News that the lowering of American diplomatic representation to Palestine was a continuation of discriminatory United States policy. A political assault on Palestinian identity, one official called it.

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