U.S. closes its 175-year-old consular mission in Jerusalem, further downgrading relations with Palestinians

An article published today by NPR correspondent Daniel Estrin notes the closing of the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem, a mission which represented the United States’ sole diplomatic outreach to the Oslo-created Palestinian Authority, and thus to the state-less Palestinian people.

Jaffa Gate procession +flags 06033u (517x640)

A religious procession inside Jaffa Gate, looking east, sometime after 1898. The building at upper right–with four arched windows and a large American flag–housed the consulate in the late 19th century. Also, note the “Vester & Co.” sign at left. (Photo: Matson Collection, U.S. Library of Congress)

(Historical notes: The first US Consul to Jerusalem was appointed in 1844 by President John Tyler. A permanent consular presence was established in 1856, in a building inside Jaffa Gate which today houses the Swedish Christian Study Center (see photo). The consular location was changed in the late 19th century, then found its permanent home in 1912 in the Mamilla neighborhood west of the Old City, in a residential compound built and formerly occupied by the German missionary and architect Ferdinand Vester (see color photo below). Vester, incidentally, gained significant ties to Jerusalem’s American Colony after his son Frederick joined the community and a few years later married Bertha Spafford, the founders’ daughter, whereupon the Vester family store inside Jaffa Gate became a Colony enterprise.)

US Consulate Agron St.

Front of the American Consulate compound on Agron Street, opposite the Mamilla Cemetery. (Photo: Wikipedia)

But, back to the present and the demise of the U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem… It is simply part of an unfolding, perverse program on the part of the Trump administration: the appointment of an overtly pro-Israel, settler-connected ideologue as U.S. Ambassador to Israel; the forced closing of the Palestinian diplomatic mission in the U.S.; the declaration by Trump (as if it were his to declare) that an undefined “Jerusalem” belongs to the State of Israel, as its proper capital; and the total elimination of U.S. aid — all humanitarian, development and security assistance — to the Palestinians.

No effort has been spared, it seems — in perfect lockstep with the present Israeli government — to make the Palestinians invisible, to sweep aside their human rights under international law, and tamp down any national aspirations they may still dare to harbor. Now this. All that’s left is the unveiling of the supposed Trump-Kushner “deal of the century” following the upcoming Israeli national elections. What makes me think that it will contain nothing good for the Palestinian people, or anything even marginally acceptable to them or their leaders?

On the end of the Jerusalem Consulate, the NPR piece quotes a statement issued by the office of Senator Patrick Leahy, which succinctly places the impact of the closure in perspective:

“It downgrades our diplomatic posture with the Palestinians at a time when the Trump administration is cutting aid and tightening the screws on the Palestinians, and restricting our engagement with them, apparently believing they can be pressured into supporting the White House’s yet to be revealed Middle East peace plan. To the contrary, it has only increased the Palestinians’ desperation and distrust, widened the gap between us and them, further damaged our credibility as a mediator, and made the prospects for peace more elusive.”

To read the complete NPR article, which contains some excellent background (and is not too long), go HERE.

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This entry was posted in American Colony, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, JERUSALEM, Jerusalem Places, Modern History, Palestinians, Politics, U.S. Foreign Policy and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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