Closing the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem is the “final nail” for a peace deal, Palestinians warn

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Palestinian officials slammed the Trump administration's decision to shutter its consulate in Jerusalem Monday, calling it the “final nail in the coffin” of U.S. efforts to broker a peace deal.

The White House announced Sunday night it had closed the consulate, which for decades acted as a de facto embassy for the Palestinians and their direct link with Washington.

"This decision was driven by our global efforts to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of our diplomatic engagements and operations," State Department spokesperson Robert Palladino said in a statement.

The functions of the consulate will now be folded into the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem. Palladino said the closure “does not signal a change of U.S. policy on Jerusalem, the West Bank, or the Gaza Strip.”

Palestinians, however, decried the move as further evidence of White House bias in favor of Israel.

"The Trump administration is intent on leaving no room for doubt about its hostility toward the Palestinian people and their inalienable rights, as well as its abject disregard for international law and its obligations under the law," senior Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi said in a statement.

Palestinian official Saeb Erekat said it was the “final nail in the coffin” for U.S. chances to broker peace between the warring sides.

The move follows years of deteriorating relations between Palestine and Washington. In December 2017, Donald Trump announced the U.S. would recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and relocate its embassy there, a move that led Palestine to cut off almost all diplomatic relations.

The U.S. has also cut hundreds of millions of dollars in funding for the disputed region, including money for hospitals and peace-building programs.

The decision means responsibility for the West Bank and Gaza will fall to ambassador David Friedman, who is a longtime supporter and fundraiser for the West Bank settler movement and fierce critic of the Palestinian leadership.

Trump appointed his son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner to broker a peace deal between Israel and Palestine. Yet after two years, few details are known about the so-called “deal of the century.”

Part of the plan is to shower tens of billions of dollars in economic aid on Palestine, along with Egypt, Jordan and possibly Lebanon, the New York Times reported last week.

“The political plan, which is very detailed, is really about establishing borders and resolving final status issues. The goal of resolving these borders is really to eliminate the borders. If you can eliminate borders and have peace and less fear of terror, you could have freer flow of goods, freer flow of people and that would create a lot more opportunities,” Kushner told Sky News last week.

Cover image: Jared Kushner, Senior Advisor to U.S. President Donald Trump, visits the Auschwitz concentration camp memorial in a delegation with U.S. Vice President Mike Pence on February 15, 2019 in Oswiecim, Poland. (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

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