US closes Jerusalem consulate, demoting Palestinian mission

US closes Jerusalem consulate, demoting Palestinian mission

JERUSALEM- The Associated Press
US closes Jerusalem consulate, demoting Palestinian mission

For decades, the consulate functioned as a de facto embassy to the Palestinians. Now, that outreach will be handled by a Palestinian affairs unit, under the command of the embassy.

The symbolic shift hands authority over U.S. diplomatic channels with the West Bank and Gaza to ambassador David Friedman, a longtime supporter and fundraiser for the West Bank settler movement and fierce critic of the Palestinian leadership.

The announcement from the State Department came early on March 4 in Jerusalem, the merger effective that day.

“This decision was driven by our global efforts to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of our diplomatic engagements and operations,” State Department spokesman Robert Palladino said in a statement. “It does not signal a change of U.S. policy on Jerusalem, the West Bank, or the Gaza Strip.”

Palestinian official Saeb Erekat called the move “the final nail in the coffin” for the U.S. role in peacemaking.

The downgrade is just the latest in a string of divisive decisions by the Trump administration that have backed Israel and alienated the Palestinians, who say they have lost faith in the U.S. administration’s role as a neutral arbiter in peace process.

Last year the U.S. recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and relocated its embassy there.

In the meantime, Israeli forces shot dead two Palestinians in an alleged car-ramming attack in the West Bank city of Ramallah yesterday, according to the Israeli military.

In a statement, the army said a third Palestinian was injured when troops fired toward Palestinians, who ran over soldiers northwest of Ramallah.

The army said one soldier was critically injured and a second suffered light wounds in the attack, which occurred near the town of Kufr Nima northwest of Ramallah.

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