By Middle East Affairs
Five U.S. officials have said that President Trump is considering allowing David Friedman, the U.S. Ambassador to Israel to have more authority over political matters in Palestine, this would surely further deteriorate U.S and Palestine’s relations, as well as hopes of an independent state.
President Trump has abandoned the previous U.S. stance on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestine crisis and gone short of hinting at the possibility of a one-state reality.
His announcement of a peace plan is lowly regarded in the eyes of Palestinians, who have turned away from the U.S. after President Trump announced his plans to relocate the U.S. embassy to the holy city of Jerusalem.
Relocating the embassy was only one of Friedman’s reforms since he arrived at his post in Israel last yr, he has also made headlines with his comments siding with Israel and fundraised millions for Israel. Overal, he has been very public with his political siding, something that is not accepted or well regarded in a diplomatic position.
His comments have not come without public condemning, on Thursday, a U.S. Democratic lawmaker said that Friedman should be recalled from his position after he told an Israeli newspaper that Democrats have not done as much as Republicans to help Israel.
The Jerusalem consulate has always had a different chain of command than other consulates in the world. Instead of envoys reporting to the embassy, it was in direct communication with the State Department, this gave a channel for Palestine to engage with the U.S government, as it served as the de-facto U.S. embassy for Palestinians.
The embassy’s role is to provide services for Americans living abroad in Jerusalem.
That also changed when Trump relocated the embassy, a move that signaled American recognition of Israeli control over east Jerusalem and the West Bank, the symbolism of such a power is sure to spill over to policy.
Until then, U.S. had not recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Now the U.S. embassy and consulate are less than one mile apart from each other in Jerusalem, causing confusing for Americans seeking services as to where to turn.
Friedman runs the embassy and is expected to take over the consulate as well.
The former US ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro said, “Palestinians don’t want to deal with the US embassy to Israel as their channel. They want their voice to be heard directly in Washington.”
Shapiro, now a scholar at Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies said such a move as to relocate the embassy underscores Palestinains claims to be an independent state, and signals that Trump’s administration views the Palestinian Authority to be submissive under Israel’s jurisdiction.
The new changes signal that in order for Palestinians to talk to the U.S., they must go through its mission to Israel.
The consulate general reports to the ambassador who is “chief of mission authority” over all U.S posts in the country. Previously, the consulate general of Jerusalem had his or her own chief mission.
Friedman has suggested that the U.S embassy absorb the consulate in Jerusalem, so far the State Department has denied his request. However, he is strongly supported by national security adviser John Bolton.
He has made no effort to hide his pro-Israel belief including vast support of Israeli settlements in the West Bank. This has not made him a favorable figure in the eyes of Palestinians who do not seem him as having an objective view to preside over a solution to the Mideast conflict.
The changes whatever they made might take place in effect in July when Consul General Donald Blome leaves Jerusalem.
For Palestinians, the Jeresulam consulate will remain the main point of contact for the Palestinian Authority and Palestinians that seek the services of the consulate like applying for visas.
In a statement, the State Department announced, “Consulate General Jerusalem continues to operate as an independent mission with an unchanged mandate from its historic Agron Road location.”
This is all coinciding with Congress wanting President Trump’s administration to recognize Golan Heights as Israel’s sovereignty. The area now settled with Israeli settlers is a strategic plateau that Israel captured from Syria in the 1967 Mideast war.
In 1981, Israel forced Syrian residents to leave, the U.S. along with many other nations believe it to be disputed territory, however, ultimately a peace deal with Israel and Syria was struck.
The political atmosphere in recent months has seen some changes with Iran, Israel’s enemy, largely involved in Syria, and its military presence near the Golan Heights border have caused Israel reason for concern.
Supporters of Israel say that its time for the U.S. to show their support of Israel and end its neutrality over the status of Golan Heights.
Some ideas regarding Golan Heights say that giving it full recognition of Israel would list restrictions from U.S. investment incentives or adding it to maps as part of Israel’s official territory.