Ambassadors the world over face delicate diplomatic concerns on a daily basis. It’s part and parcel for the job.
But nowhere is that truer than Jerusalem, where the US recently moved its embassy to. In the process of doing this, the US outraged many Palestinians while delighting most Israelis.
In the latest feather ruffling move, the United States has shuttered its Jerusalem consulate that served as its diplomatic channel to Palestine, and merged with the new embassy in Israel.
Palestine has boycotted the Trump administration after it made the bold policy decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital in December 2017.
Palestinians are not happy to say the least.
‘Nail in the coffin’
Previously the consulate had provided reporting on Palestinian affairs directly to Washington, but staff have now been reassigned to the embassy as the ‘Palestinian Affairs Unit,’ working under the US ambassador to Israel, David Friedman.
Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat decried the move on Twitter saying that, ‘This is the last nail in the coffin.’
Talks between the two countries collapsed last in 2014, but the White House has indicated that it plans to present a new peace plan following the upcoming Israeli election in April.
Israel lays claim to all of Jerusalem, including the eastern part that it captured in the 1967 Middle East War and annexed it in a move that the international ‘community’ has not recognised.
The US has traditionally signalled that the final status of Jerusalem will be a negotiated outcome.
Meanwhile, Palestine wants to make East Jerusalem its capital, bringing together the occupied West Bank and Gaza strip areas.
The EU has said in a recent report that the continued growth of Israeli settlements in the West Bank has hampered a two-state solution, rendering it, ‘increasingly unattainable.’
US concerns for operational efficiency
According to RAW, the report claimed that the increase in new housing in the West Bank was unprecedented and paved the way for more Israelis to move in.
The lowering of the flag ceremony at the Agron Street location was a low-key event.
Ambassador Freidman was not present.
Once lowered, the US flag was presented to departing consul Karen Sasahara as a going away gift, as is custom in the Foreign Service.
Curiously, the US State Department claimed the merger of the two missions was motivated by a concern for operational efficiency and was not part of a broader policy shift.
Sasahara said on YouTube that, ‘Our team will continue to work on reaching peace in this land’.
US officials told Reuters last month the Agron Street building would serve as the ambassador’s residence going forward.
The prospects for peace have dimmed significantly in recent years with the ascendancy of Hamas in Palestinian politics.
Israeli settlements have likely not helped the matter, and it will take a significant effort from both countries to once again attempt to make headway in talks.