A worker hangs a road sign directing to the US embassy, in the area of the US consulate in Jerusalem, May 7, 2018. .
(photo credit: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)
The US Consulate General in Jerusalem, which for decades has operated independently of the US Embassy and served as an ad-hoc American embassy to the Palestinians, will merge on Monday with the embassy and come under the authority of Ambassador David Friedman.
A statement from the US State Department was released on Sunday confirming the merger.
The consulate general’s historic building on Agron Road in the capital will now be renamed the Palestinian Affairs Unit and operate under the auspices of the embassy.
Up until now, the two entities – the embassy when it was located on Hayarkon Street in Tel Aviv and the consulate general in Jerusalem – functioned as two distinct units, with each reporting independently to the State Department, each having a different spokesperson, and each holding its own July 4 celebrations.
The embassy in Tel Aviv was responsible for the portion of Israel within the 1967 Green Line, and the consulate general had responsibility for the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem. The new Palestinian Affairs Unit is expected to carry out many of the same tasks that up until now were carried out by the consulate general, though some of the unit’s operation will be transferred to the new embassy building on David Flusser Street in Jerusalem’s Talpiot neighborhood.
As part of the merger, the position of US Consul General will be eliminated, and Karen Sasahara – who currently holds that position – will be posted elsewhere.
The intention to merge the consulate into the embassy was announced by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in October, some five months after US President Donald Trump moved the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. He said that the goal of the merger was “to achieve significant efficiencies and increase our effectiveness.”
Pompeo said the US would continue its “full range of reporting, outreach, and programming in the West Bank and Gaza as well as with Palestinians in Jerusalem,” through the unit to be housed on Agron Road.
“This decision is driven by our global efforts to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of our operations,” Pompeo said at the time. “It does not signal a change of US policy on Jerusalem, the West Bank or the Gaza Strip.”
“As the president proclaimed,” he added, “the United States continues to take no position on final status issues, including boundaries or borders. The specific boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem are subject to final status negotiations between the parties.”
The Consulate General’s website described its role as “representing the United States in Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as an independent mission, with the Consul General serving as chief of mission. We also provide services to American citizens in this district.
“Our overarching strategic objective remains the achievement of a just and lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” the consulate website reads. “Since the signing of the Oslo Accords, the Consulate General has served as the de facto representative of the United States government to the Palestinian Authority. In tandem with our efforts to shepherd a conflict-ending Israeli-Palestinian settlement, we help the Palestinian Authority build sustainable institutions.”
The Consulate General was the outgrowth of the US diplomatic presence first established in the city in 1844, near Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City. Toward the end of the century, it moved to a new building on Hanevi’im Street, and then in 1912 to its current site on Agron Street in a historic building, which was one of the first buildings built outside of the Old City in 1868.
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