US Closes Jerusalem Consulate, Demoting Palestinian Mission - NBC Bay Area
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US Closes Jerusalem Consulate, Demoting Palestinian Mission

For decades, the consulate functioned as a de facto embassy to the Palestinians

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    US Closes Jerusalem Consulate, Demoting Palestinian Mission
    Ariel Schalit/AP, File
    Security officers walk on a road leading to the US Embassy compound ahead the official opening in Jerusalem, Sunday, May 13, 2018. The opening of the U.S. Embassy in contested Jerusalem, cheered by Israelis as a historic validation, is seen by Palestinians as an in-your-face affirmation of pro-Israel bias by President Donald Trump and a new blow to frail statehood dreams.

    The United States has officially shuttered its consulate in Jerusalem, downgrading the status of its main diplomatic mission to the Palestinians by folding it into the U.S. Embassy to Israel.

    For decades, the consulate functioned as a de facto embassy to the Palestinians. Now, that outreach will be handled by a Palestinian affairs unit, under the command of the embassy.

    The symbolic shift hands authority over U.S. diplomatic channels with the West Bank and Gaza to ambassador David Friedman, a longtime supporter and fundraiser for the West Bank settler movement and fierce critic of the Palestinian leadership.

    The announcement from the State Department came early Monday in Jerusalem, the merger effective that day.

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    A would-be robber armed with a knife had a surprise in store when an Alabama store clerk pulled out a machete in defense. The two's brief knife fight was caught on camera before the clerk runs out to damage the robber's car.

    According to police, suspect Seth Holcomb walked up to the counter to make a purchase. He leaves the store and then comes back in as if to make a second purchase. Then, he pulled out a knife at the counter. What he didn't expect was that the clerk would pull out a machete of his own.

    (Published Wednesday, March 20, 2019)

    "This decision was driven by our global efforts to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of our diplomatic engagements and operations," State Department spokesman Robert Palladino said in a statement. "It does not signal a change of U.S. policy on Jerusalem, the West Bank, or the Gaza Strip."

    When first announced by U.S. Secretary Mike Pompeo in October, the move infuriated Palestinians, fueling their suspicions that the U.S. was recognizing Israeli control over east Jerusalem and the West Bank, territories that Palestinians seek for a future state.

    Palestinian official Saeb Erekat called the move "the final nail in the coffin" for the U.S. role in peacemaking.

    The downgrade is just the latest in a string of divisive decisions by the Trump administration that have backed Israel and alienated the Palestinians, who say they have lost faith in the U.S. administration's role as a neutral arbiter in peace process.

    Last year the U.S. recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital and relocated its embassy there, upending U.S. policy toward one of the most explosive issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Palestinians in turn cut off most ties with the administration.

    The administration also has slashed hundreds of millions of dollars in humanitarian aid to the Palestinians, including assistance to hospitals and peace-building programs. It has cut funding to the U.N. agency that provides aid to Palestinians classified as refugees. Last fall, it shut down the Palestinian diplomatic mission in Washington.

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    Machelle Hackney of Maricopa, Arizona, is accused of forcing her adopted children to participate in her YouTube channel and abusing them if they did not recall their lines or perform as directed. Hackney's channel had accrued hundreds of millions of views since she joined in 2012.

    (Published Wednesday, March 20, 2019)

    The Trump administration has cited the reluctance of Palestinian leaders to enter peace negotiations with Israel as the reason for such punitive measures, although the U.S. has yet to present its much-anticipated but still mysterious "Deal of the Century" to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

    Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, announced last month that the U.S. would unveil the deal after Israeli elections in April. The Palestinian Authority has preemptively rejected the plan, accusing the U.S. of bias toward Israel.

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    AP Diplomatic Writer Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this report.