President Donald Trump is considering transferring authority of the United States Consulate in Yerushalayim to Ambassador David Friedman, the AP reported Friday. With the American Embassy now in the city, the president is said to be seeking to downgrade the authority and mission of the consulate, while promoting the embassy, the report said, quoting officials who were not authorized to discuss the matter.
The U.S. Consulate General technically serves all Israelis – but de facto, its role has been to be a bridge to the U.S. for Arabs in eastern Yerushalayim, and for Palestinian Authority Arabs. Israeli Jews have been generally directed to the embassy in Tel Aviv for issues regarding visas, passports, permits and other services., while Arabs have used the consulate.
According to the report, “the consul general running the Jerusalem consulate has historically had his or her own chief of mission authority,” as compared to the situation in most countries, where the consul general is subject to the authority of the ambassador.
While efficiency might be behind the decision – considering that both institutions are now located in the same city – the report quoted former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro as saying that “such a move would be perceived as undermining Palestinians’ claims to sovereignty and statehood aspirations, because it would suggest that Washington considers the Palestinian Authority to be under Israel’s jurisdiction.
The Palestinians would be upset with this new arrangement, Friedman said, because “they don’t want to deal with the U.S. Embassy to Israel as their channel.” The report quoted Shapiro as saying, “They want their voice to be heard directly in Washington.”
The report said that no final decision has been made. In a statement, the U.S. Consulate General said that it “continues to operate as an independent mission with an unchanged mandate from its historic Agron Road location.”