US mission to Palestinians renamed on Twitter, signaling upgrade

The former "Palestinian Affairs Unit" (PAU) within the US Embassy was redesignated as the "US Office of Palestinian Affairs in Jerusalem" at the Twitter handle @USPalAffairs.

 The Twitter app is seen on a smartphone in this illustration taken July 13, 2021 (photo credit: REUTERS/DADO RUVIC)
The Twitter app is seen on a smartphone in this illustration taken July 13, 2021
(photo credit: REUTERS/DADO RUVIC)

The US State Department signaled that it upgraded its Jerusalem office to the Palestinians on Thursday, without opening a consulate in Israel’s capital.

The Palestinian Affairs Unit, which operates within the US Embassy to Israel since it moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, changed its name to the “US Office of Palestinian Affairs in Jerusalem” on Twitter.

An embassy spokesperson said that “the name change was done to better align with State Department nomenclature.”

But the statement indicated that this was more than a name change, with the spokesperson saying there is a “new OPA reporting structure... designed to strengthen our diplomatic reporting and public diplomacy engagement. The OPA operates under the auspices of the US Embassy in Jerusalem, and reports on substantive matters directly to the Near Eastern Affairs Bureau in the State Department. It continues to be led in Jerusalem by the chief of the office, George Noll.”

The change comes as the US has sought to re-open its consulate to the Palestinians in Jerusalem, but Israel has remained steadfast in its opposition to the move, which the government has argued undermines its sovereignty in its capital.

 Israelis stand with an Israeli flag opposite to Palestinians with Palestinian flag next to Damascus gate to Jerusalem's Old City, on Jerusalem Day, May 29, 2022. (credit: AMMAR AWAD/REUTERS) Israelis stand with an Israeli flag opposite to Palestinians with Palestinian flag next to Damascus gate to Jerusalem's Old City, on Jerusalem Day, May 29, 2022. (credit: AMMAR AWAD/REUTERS)

The Palestinian Affairs Unit was previously a US consulate in Jerusalem, which was closed when president Donald Trump moved the US Embassy to Jerusalem in 2018. Its functions and staff are mostly the same as that of the consulate.