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Trump Weighs Changes in al-Quds Consulate

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President Donald Trump is considering giving US Ambassador to the "Israeli" entity David Friedman more authority over the US outpost that handles Palestinian affairs, five US officials said, a shift that could further dampen Palestinian hopes for an independent state.

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Any move to downgrade the autonomy of the US Consulate General in al-Quds [Jerusalem] - responsible for relations with the Palestinians - could have potent symbolic resonance, suggesting American recognition of "Israeli" control over east al-Quds and the occupied West Bank. And while the change might be technical and bureaucratic, it could have potentially significant policy implications.

As president, Trump has departed from traditional US insistence on a "two-state solution" for the Mideast conflict by leaving open the possibility of just one state. As his administration prepares to unveil a long-awaited "peace" plan, the Palestinians have all but cut off contact, enraged by Trump's decision to move the US embassy to al-Quds.

The deliberations come as Friedman, who has pushed for changes to the consulate since he arrived in the entity last year, faces growing indignation in the US over partisan comments and other actions in which he has publicly sided with the "Israeli" entity over its critics. On Thursday, a top Democratic lawmaker even suggested Friedman should be recalled after he waded into domestic US politics on the entity's behalf, telling an "Israeli" newspaper that Democrats have failed to support the "Israeli" entity as much as Republicans.

Until Trump's decision in December to move it from Tel Aviv, the United States did not recognize al-Quds as the "Israeli" entity's so-called capital. The consulate at al-Quds provided services to Americans in al-Quds and also served as the de facto US embassy to the Palestinians.

But since Trump earlier this month moved the embassy to al-Quds, the situation has become more complicated. Now the US maintains an embassy in one part of the city and a separate consulate less than a mile away, potentially creating confusion about who has ultimate authority if, for example, an American citizen needs help and turns to the US government.

No final decision has been made about what changes to make to the consulate's chain of command, a decision complicated by the consulate's unique circumstances. But the embassy, run by Friedman, is expected to end up with ultimate authority over the consulate, officials said. They weren't authorized to discuss the matter publicly and requested anonymity.

Separately, the Trump administration is also facing calls in Congress for the US to recognize "Israeli" sovereignty over the Golan Heights, the strategic plateau that the entity captured from Syria in the 1967 Mideast war. Although the entity annexed the Golan in 1981, the US and others consider it to be disputed territory with its status subject to an eventual "peace" deal between the "Israeli" entity and Syria.

Source: News Agencies, Edited by website team

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