US incorporates diplomatic office for Palestinians into Jerusalem embassy

US incorporates diplomatic office for Palestinians into Jerusalem embassy
© Anna Moneymaker

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoCorker: 'A price needs to be paid' for Khashoggi's murder White House eyeing ways to remove Erdoğan foe Gülen from US: report Trump team plans to promote fossil fuels at UN climate event: report MORE announced Thursday that the U.S. will be merging the diplomatic office that deals with Palestinians with its Israeli embassy in Jerusalem. 

Rather than having a separate office to interact with Palestinians, the U.S. Consulate General will become a part of the embassy as a new Palestinian Affairs Unit.

According to a statement from Pompeo, the U.S. "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."

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He said that the change was motivated by an interest in effectiveness and efficiency, not any policy shift in the region.

"The Administration is strongly committed to achieving a lasting and comprehensive peace that offers a brighter future to Israel and the Palestinians," Pompeo said. "We look forward to continued partnership and dialogue with the Palestinian people and, we hope in the future, with the Palestinian leadership."

Pompeo added that the merger will be overseen by Ambassador to Israel David Friedman.

The Palestinian Liberation Organization was quick to condemn the move, saying in a statement, "This decision has nothing to do with 'efficiency' and a lot to do with pleasing an ideological US team that is willing to disband the foundations of US Foreign Policy, and of the international system, in order to reward Israeli violations and crimes."

Others, such as former Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren, praised the change.

"A great day for Israel, Jerusalem, and the United States," Oren wrote on Twitter. "SoS Pompeo’s announcement closing the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem and transferring its responsibilities to the embassy ends the last vestige of American support for the city’s division."

The Trump administration has signaled its support for keeping Jerusalem in Israel's hands, moving the U.S. embassy to the contested city last year and officially recognizing it as Israel's capital.

The Palestinians have long demanded that East Jerusalem should be the capital of a Palestinian state created in a two-state solution.

In February last year, Trump said he would be open to a one-state solution.

“So I’m looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like,” Trump said after a meeting at the White House with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “I’m very happy with the one that both parties like. I can live with either one.”

However, he insisted in a meeting with Netanyahu last month that he still favors a two-state solution.