Protesters burn a poster of US President Donald Trump with the words "No for the deal of the century" in the Palestinian Authority controlled side of Hebron, February 22, 2019.
(photo credit: MUSSA QAWASMA / REUTERS)
Palestinians on Sunday warned that Washington had ended its role in the Middle East peace process, now that the merger of the United States’ Consulate General in Jerusalem with the US Embassy is expected to go into effect on Monday.
The move has been cast as downgrade of ties between the two governments, because the Consulate General had served as de-facto US embassy to the Palestinian Authority.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the merger of the consulate with the embassy did not signify a change in US policy concerning the final-status issues. The merger, he explained, was intended to improve “efficiency and effectiveness.”
However, several Palestinian officials said on Sunday that the move was another sign of the US administration’s “bias” in favor of Israel and “hostility” toward the Palestinians.
The officials claimed that the move was part of US President Donald Trump’s yet-to-be-unveiled plan for peace in the Middle East, also known as the “Deal of the Century.”
The officials reiterated their rejection of the “Deal of the Century” and said that the Palestinian leadership will continue to “make sacrifices to preserve the national rights of the Palestinian people.”
The Palestinian Authority has been boycotting the US administration and its representatives since December 2017, when Trump announced his decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Mahmoud al-Aloul, deputy chairman of the West Bank-based ruling Fatah faction, said that the US was no longer qualified to play the role of broker to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He claimed that the Trump administration had tried, unsuccessfully, to establish contacts with Palestinian civil society groups, municipalities and other parties behind the back of the PA.
PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat dismissed the claim that the merger of the consulate and embassy was related to “efficiency.”
Denouncing the move as the “last nail in the coffin of the US administration role in peace making,” Erekat said it was mainly aimed to “please the ideologized American team, which is primed to dismantle the foundations of the international system and US foreign policy in order to reward Israel for its violations and crimes.”
The “ideologized” team refers to US presidential advisers Jason Greenblatt and Jared Kushner and US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman. Palestinian officials hold the three US officials responsible for the Trump administration’s policies and measures toward the Palestinians, including the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the relocation of the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, the closure of the PLO diplomatic mission in Washington
and the suspension of US financial aid to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA).
Hanan Ashrawi, member of the PLO Executive Committee, condemned the merger of the US Consulate in Jerusalem and said it shows that Trump’s administration “is intent on leaving no room for doubt about its hostility towards the Palestinian people and their inalienable rights, as well as its abject disregard for international law and its obligations under the law.”
In a statement issued on behalf of the PLO, Ashrawi said that the merging of the consulate with the embassy “is not an administrative decision. It is an act of political assault on Palestinian rights and identity and a negation of the Consulate’s historic status and function, dating back nearly 200 years.”
The Trump administration, she charged, “is subsuming Palestine under Israel and aligning itself with the racist Israeli right, which negates Palestinian identity, history, narrative and national rights. It is positioning itself with rogue states that have no regard for international law or respect for the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by force, a founding principle of the international order as we know it.”
Ashrawi described the merger as an “affront to the international community and the principles of the United Nations Charter and said that the Palestinians “consider this a willful reinforcement of an irresponsible and hostile US policy. These destabilizing actions and policies preclude any possible positive role for the current US administration in seeking peace and stability.”
Another senior PLO official, Tayseer Khaled, denounced the US move as a “flagrant assault on the Palestinian people and international laws and resolutions. The decision, he said, “negates the Palestinian right to self-determination and the establishment of an independent and sovereign Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its eternal capital.”
Khaled claimed that the merger decision was also aimed at boosting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s prospects of winning the upcoming elections.
The PLO’s Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) said that the move of the US diplomatic mission was in the context of Trump’s “Deal of the Century.” This plan, the DFLP claimed, is aimed at consolidating the status of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and “liquidating the Palestinian national issue.”
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