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Trump to give embassy in J’lem control over consulate-run affairs

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Bulk351OCCUPIED JERUSALEM (PNIC):-US president Donald Trump is considering giving US ambassador to Israel David Friedman more authority over Washington's diplomatic consulate that handles Palestinian affairs, a move that could further dampen Palestinian hopes for an independent state, according to The Associated Press news agency.

Any move to downgrade the autonomy of the US consulate general in Jerusalem - responsible for relations with the Palestinians - could have potent symbolic implications, suggesting American recognition of Israeli control over east Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank.

And while the change might be technical and bureaucratic, it could have potentially significant policy ramifications, The Associated Press opined.

Breaking with years of US policy, Trump announced the US recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel on December 6, drawing international condemnation and sparking a wave of heated protests around the world.

The intended move comes as Friedman, who has pushed for changes to the consulate since he arrived in Israel last year, faces growing indignation in the US over partisan comments and other actions in which he has blatantly sided with Israel.

On Thursday, a top Democratic lawmaker even suggested Friedman should be recalled after he waded into domestic US politics on Israel's behalf.

For decades, the Jerusalem consulate has operated differently than almost every other consulate around the world. Rather than reporting to the US Embassy in Israel, it has reported directly to the state department in Washington, giving the Palestinians an unfiltered channel to engage with the US government.

That arrangement was relatively clear-cut before Trump moved the embassy.

Israel occupied east Jerusalem, West Bank and Gaza during the 1967 war along with the Syrian Golan Heights and the Egyptian Sinai peninsula. Israel moved to annex east Jerusalem in 1980 in violation of international law.

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