Palestinians slam 'ideological' decision to close US Jerusalem consulate

Mr Scott Morrison has been criticised for what is seen as a politically desperate move

The Trump administration is set to merge its consulate general in Jerusalem with its new embassy in Israel into a single diplomatic mission, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Thursday.

Palestine Liberation Organization Secretary General Saeb Erekat has strongly condemned a recent decision by the United States administration to downgrade its consulate for Palestinians by merging it into its controversial embassy in the Israeli-occupied Jerusalem al-Quds.

The merger is meant to "achieve significant efficiencies and increase our effectiveness" of the American mission, according to a statement from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. "It does not signal a change of U.S. policy", Pompeo said in a statement.

On December 21 past year, the United Nations General Assembly overwhelmingly voted in favor of a resolution that calls on the USA to withdraw its controversial policy shift.

They have insisted the status of Jerusalem, which both the Israelis and Palestinians see as their capital, should be negotiated between the parties.

"[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 '67 border", he said in a statement.

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"Step by step, the Trump administration has worked to destroy the U.S. relationship with the Palestinians and to close off every point of contact with the Palestinian leadership", he said in a statement.

Israel's crackdown in Gaza left over 60 protesters dead in Gaza on that day alone.

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Despite the vote, the United States went ahead with the embassy transfer on May 14, triggering angry protests in Gaza, the West Bank and elsewhere in the world. "Israel is deeply grateful".

But Mr Erekat, the PLO's secretary general, said the USA could no longer play a part in the peace process, adding: "The Trump administration is part of the problem, not part of the solution".

"Now, he is cutting the last connection he is said to have with the Palestinian people".

Nabil Shaath, the global affairs adviser to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said it was a "very bad decision" that violated past agreements and continued President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital. "This decision has nothing to do with peace".

The consulate downgrade is just the latest in a series of decisions by Trump that the Palestinians say shows bias against them. In addition, it has shuttered the Palestine Liberation Organization's diplomatic mission in Washington, revoking the visas of all Palestinian representatives. This responsibility will now belong to a unit within the US embassy, overseen by the ambassador to Israel.

Saeb Erekat, the secretary general of the PLO, condemned the US move.

A State Department official in Jerusalem, speaking on the condition of anonymity to brief the press, said, however, that the current consul general, Karen Sasahara, would return to Washington.

The administration has been considering the idea of closing the consulate general for several months, CBS first reported in June.

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