Demise of the U.S. Consulate General to Jerusalem after 174 years

On October 18, 2018, U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo announced the merger of the U.S. Consulate General to Jerusalem with its Embassy to Israel in Jerusalem.

Citing significant efficiencies and increased effectiveness, Pompeo said that a full range of reporting, outreach, and programming in the West Bank and Gaza as well as with Palestinians in Jerusalem will be conducted through a new Palestinian Affairs Unit inside the U.S. Embassy.

Pompeo added that this action does not signal a change of U.S. policy on Jerusalem, the West Bank, or the Gaza Strip. “As the President proclaimed in December of last year, the United States continues to take no position on final status issues, including boundaries or borders. The specific boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem are subject to final status negotiations between the parties.”

The Consulate General to Jerusalem was established as an independent mission in 1844. Since 1912, it has operated out of a complex on Agron Street in western Jerusalem not far from its earliest location in the Old City.

The U.S. State Department built a contemporary annex in Jerusalem’s Arnona neighborhood. Although styled as an annex, this new campus is larger than the facilities on Agron Street.

In May 2018, the U.S. Embassy to Israel began operations on a small scale in the Arnona annex.

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U.S. warns no one will be ‘fully pleased’ by Israeli-Palestinian peace plan

“No one will be fully pleased with our proposal, but that’s the way it must be if real peace is to be achieved,” officials said. “Peace can only succeed if it is based on realities.”

NoOnePleasedPeacePlan

(Times of Israel August 15, 2018)

Proposed U.S. plan to resolve the Israel-Palestinian conflict

The “deal of the century” or “ultimate deal” is U.S. President Donald Trump’s plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This plan is a purported agreement between the U.S., Israel, and the Arab allies Jordan, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Egypt to end the two-state proposal and to divide or share sovereignty over the Palestinian population in the occupied territories between Israel, Jordan, and Egypt.

Jared Kushner, a White House senior adviser (and the President’s son-in-law), has been brokering a deal with Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Kushner and Jason Greenblatt, chief U.S. negotiator for the region, visited both Saudi Arabia and Jordan in June 2018 to prepare to release Mr. Trump’s proposal which, it has been suggested, has been 18 months in the making.

A decision to release the plan comes with no indication that 82-year-old Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian Authority President (and Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization – PLO), will entertain the plan. He has refused to meet with U.S. negotiators since the U.S. president recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

An unnamed senior Jordanian official said, “Arab states will not be the ones to throw a wrench ‎in the wheels of the peace process, and that Abbas’s ‎continued refusal to work with the Americans will ‎lead to a regional peace plan being launched without ‎him.”

One element of the proposal is that Saudi Arabia will control the Temple Mount in place of Jordan’s current custodianship. In addition, the town Abu Dis – adjacent to Jerusalem – will become the capital of the Palestinian Authority. Speculation has it that any Palestinian state would have limited sovereignty.

In related news, Mahmoud Abbas seeks to convene a session of the Palestine National Council (PNC) to break ties with Israel. The PNC, located in Amman, Jordan, has not met since 2009.

The council is:

the legislative body of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and elects the PLO Executive Committee, which assumes leadership of the organization between its sessions. The PNC is [the legislative body] responsible for formulating the policies and programs for the PLO. It serves as the parliament that represents all Palestinians inside and outside the Palestinian territories, and all sectors of the worldwide Palestinian community, including political parties, popular organizations, resistance movements, and independent figures from all sectors of life. (Wikipedia, “Palestine National Council“)

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Gleaned from:

Al Jazeera – beware of malware * – “Four Arab states ‘support US plan’ for peace in the Middle East.” June 25, 2018.

Al Jazeera – beware of malware * – “Palestinian National Council to discuss ending ties with Israel.” April 28, 2018.

James M. Dorsey – academia.edu, “Saudi religious diplomacy targets Jerusalem.” December 2017.

James M. Dorsey, “Trading Jerusalem for Iran.” December 16, 2017.

Goldberg, Jeffrey. “Saudi Crown Prince: Iran’s Supreme Leader ‘Makes Hitler Look Good’.” The Atlantic. April 2, 2018.

Middle East Monitor, “White House senior adviser Jared Kushner discusses ‘deal of the century’ and Gaza siege with Netanyahu.” June 23, 2018.

Middle East Monitor, “Haaretz: Most Arab leaders agree to US ‘deal of century’.” July 2, 2018.

The New York Times, “Talk of a Peace Plan That Snubs Palestinians Roils Middle East.” December 3, 2017.

The Washington Post, “Trump axes the Iran deal and creates a new crisis.” May 9, 2018.

The Washington Post, “U.S. close to releasing Mideast peace proposal that Palestinian leadership may immediately reject.” June 21, 2018.

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* beware of malware – A false Microsoft screen. Perhaps triggered by visiting the site. A Saudi cyber attack comes to mind.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visits Israel

Plans underway to open the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem

Secretary Pompeo visited Israel on April 29, 2018, having just visited Saudi Arabia and before visiting Jordan.

Pompeo announced that the new embassy will be opened on May 14th, the 70th anniversary of Israel’s independence and 70 years of recognition of the state by the U.S.

A reference to final peace agreements came when Pompeo said that “… the boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem remain subject to negotiations between the parties …” Primarily, Pompeo addressed “… efforts to counter Iran’s destabilizing and malign activity throughout the Middle East …”

Irony of ironies: Secretary Pompeo met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv where the Prime Minister maintains an office. Jerusalem is the seat of Israel’s government, but Tel Aviv will continue to be the practical location for international affairs.

I’ve mentioned before that Israel’s international airport is a short limousine ride from Tel Aviv destinations. Jerusalem, in contrast, is 40-45 minutes away (50 km).

Jerusalem has an airport, but international regulators refuse to authorize international flights into the airport. It’s not yet clear to me why Jerusalem is off limits. If it’s a political issue, the pertinent element is that the airport is in disputed Jerusalem territory.

If we can dismiss political matters, the Jerusalem airport is not secure and safe. The runway lies a short distance from the Jerusalem security barrier and the Palestinian city of Ramallah. Israel police and military forces have made little effort to keep Palestinians away from their side of the barrier. Consequently, Palestinians have been heaving rocks onto the tarmac with impunity.

See the official transcript of Pompeo’s remarks on the website of the U.S. State Department.

 

Don’t force disbanding of a foreign army

This issue came up concerning peace with North Korea. Some pundits and some experts (some pundits are lamentably not experts) are suggesting that North Korea disband its army in exchange for a peace treaty with South Korea.

While this idea has merit, it is unwise. North Korea’s military is a huge employer – perhaps the largest employer in the country. How would these men earn a living otherwise? Disbanding North Korea’s army would disrupt their society, and who needs that?

Me and The Washington Post

It started with a current event – President Donald Trump announced that the U.S. would be relocating its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

I found current information about this news story from the digital Washington Post. The digital content included a video of U.S. Vice President Pence’s speech to Israel’s Knesset (parliament) in Jerusalem. I had also been looking at official sources such as the U.S. Department of State and the president’s official site, whitehouse.gov.

After viewing a few online articles from The Washington Post, they offered me a trial subscription – one dollar for the first month and “only” ten dollars for each month after.

My subscription to The Washington Post, digital edition, came in handy last month when I was thinking about how President Trump’s statements and policies aggravate me (if I let them). The President has, in effect, become my bête noire for March and now for the first part of April (only).

Little did I know that Mr. Trump would be railing against the Post and its owner Jeff Bezos of Amazon.com. Mr. Trump’s rant warrants a separate post.

If you subscribe to President Trump’s views, then you may dismiss much of what I write. However, please note that I do not take a stand in the “Culture Wars.” In addition, I’m not pleased with Amazon.com’s burgeoning hegemony over American merchandising. I don’t buy anything from Amazon. I search other online vendors rather than buy from Amazon, even if I can save a few cents with Amazon. My savings would be otherwise someone else’s loss.

Still and all, I’m generally pleased with news and opinion coverage by The Washington Post.