U.S. Downgrade of Palestinian Mission Taking Effect Monday

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The US State Department has confirmed that the American Consulate General in Jerusalem would merge with the US Embassy in Jerusalem on Monday.

It will be merged with the United States embassy to Israel, where a new Palestinian affairs unit will operate.

The intention to merge the consulate with the embassy was announced by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in October, who said the aim was "to achieve significant efficiencies and increase our effectiveness".

Palestinians view him - along with Trump's administration - as blatantly biased in favour of Israel.

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Attacks have continued as the Israeli occupation continues, settlement enterprise continues to expand, and US President Donald Trump recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The State Department announcement on Sunday gave the official date for the move.

Last May, the Trump administration drew worldwide condemnation when it moved the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem-a city that Palestinians want as part of a future state.

The first physical presence of a United States mission there was inside Jaffa Gate in the old city of Jerusalem, a building that is now being used for Christian Swedes. The majority of the global community believes that the status of the city should be discussed through direct negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis.

Palestinian leaders call it an attempt to blackmail them into accepting a plan that they believe will destroy their hopes for independent statehood.

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Also, Consul General Karen Sasahara, who has been acting as what many describe as the "de facto ambassador to the Palestinians", will be leaving Jerusalem.

Member of the PLO central committee Hanan Ashrawi said the move was not an administrative decision as claimed by the U.S. Instead, she said, it was "an act of political assault on Palestinian rights and identity".

The status of Jerusalem goes to the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Israeli settlement construction approvals in the West Bank on land the Palestinians consider part of their future state has accelerated since Trump took office. The U.S. then cut hundreds of millions of dollars in aid - humanitarian aid, development assistance to the Palestinians, cutting money to hospitals in Jerusalem providing cancer treatment to Palestinians and other programs - all of these steps to pressure Palestinians to come back to the table and talk with the U.S. But they have not done so.

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Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah party condemned the "hideous crime" and held Israel accountable for it, accusing the Israeli government of "using Palestinian blood as material for bargaining in Israeli electoral campaigning". He explained that the merger of the consulate serving Palestinian Arabs with the US Embassy to Israel was meant to improve "efficiency and effectiveness".

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