Turkey tells Israel’s Istanbul consul to leave in escalating row

A rallyist holds a Palestinian flag on Istiklal avenue in Istanbul on Tuesday, May 15, during a protest against the killing of 59 Palestinians who clashed with Israeli police at the Gaza border. (AFP)
Updated 16 May 2018
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Turkey tells Israel’s Istanbul consul to leave in escalating row

ISTANBUL: Turkey has told the Israeli consul general in Istanbul to leave the country temporarily, state media said Wednesday, the latest of a series of tit-for-tat expulsions in a growing crisis over Israel’s deadly firing on Palestinians on the Gaza border.
The Turkish foreign ministry has told the consul to leave Turkey “for a period of time,” the state-run Anadolu news agency said.
Turkey had already withdrawn its ambassador in Tel Aviv for consultations and told the Israeli ambassador to Ankara to leave, while Israel ordered the Turkish consul in Jerusalem to leave for an unspecified period of time.
The row, which on Tuesday saw President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu exchange bitter jibes on Twitter, threatens a 2016 deal on normalizing ties after a long-running crisis.
Turkey has expressed outrage over the killing by Israeli forces on Monday of 60 Palestinians on the Gaza border and also blamed tensions on the US decision to move its embassy for Israel to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.
Erdogan will on Friday host an emergency summit meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Istanbul which he has said will send a “strong message to the world” on the issue.
The 2016 reconciliation deal ended a dispute over the May 2010 deadly storming of a Turkish ship by Israeli commandos that saw relations downgraded.
That deal was strongly backed by the US, which was keen to see Israel make up with one of its very few key Muslim partners.
But Erdogan, who regards himself as a champion of the Palestinian cause, has never shied away from criticism of Israel even as ministers pressed energy cooperation between the two sides.
Erdogan this week has accused Israel of “genocide” and told Netanyahu he is leading an “apartheid state” while having the “blood of Palestinians” on his hands.
Netanyahu meanwhile told Erdogan that as a leading supporter of Palestinian Islamist group Hamas “there’s no doubt he’s an expert on terror and slaughter.”
In a tweet titled “Reminder to Netanyahu,” Erdogan then denied that Hamas is a terror group, saying it is a “resistance movement that defends the Palestinian homeland against an occupying power.”
After talks with British Prime Minister Theresa May on Tuesday, Erdogan warned that history “will not forgive” Israel or the United States for moving the American embassy to Jerusalem in defiance of the Islamic world.


US downgrades Palestinian mission, places it under embassy in Israel

Updated 19 October 2018
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US downgrades Palestinian mission, places it under embassy in Israel

  • The move will make the US ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, the main interlocutor with the Palestinian leadership
  • Pro-Israel advocates hailed the decision, saying it confirmed the US recognized the whole of Jerusalem as part of Israel

WASHINGTON: The United States downgraded its main diplomatic mission to the Palestinians on Thursday, placing it under the authority of the US embassy to Israel.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the consulate general, a separate office which handled dealings with the Palestinians, would be replaced by a new Palestinian Affairs Unit inside the controversial new US embassy in Jerusalem.
The move will make the US ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, who is reviled by Palestinians over his support for Israeli settlements in the West Bank, the main interlocutor with the Palestinian leadership.
The change, quickly condemned by the Palestinians, follows a series of setbacks for them at the hands of President Donald Trump, who has turned US policy sharply toward Israel.
Pro-Israel advocates hailed the decision, saying it confirmed the US recognized the whole of Jerusalem as part of Israel.
“This decision is driven by our global efforts to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of our operations. It does not signal a change of US policy,” Pompeo said in a statement.
He said the United States “continues to take no position” on how any peace deal between the Israelis and Palestinians would take shape.
The Palestinian leadership rejected Pompeo’s “efficiency” explanation.
The decision has “a lot to do with pleasing an ideological US team that is willing to disband the foundations of American foreign policy, and of the international system, in order to reward Israeli violations and crimes,” the Palestinians’ chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said.
“The Trump administration is part of the problem, not part of the solution,” he added.
International powers have for decades maintained separate and autonomous representations to Israel and the Palestinians on the basis of supporting the eventual creation of an independent Palestinian state.
They have insisted that the status of Jerusalem, which both the Israelis and Palestinians see as their capital, should be negotiated between the parties as part of any end deal.
Last December, Trump reversed longstanding US policy and recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, prompting Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas to boycott his administration.
The embassy was officially transferred on May 14.
Since then, the Trump administration has forced the Palestinians to shutter their Washington mission and has slashed hundreds of millions of dollars in aid, in a bid to force them to the negotiating table.
Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, alongside Friedman and peace envoy Jason Greenblatt, has been working for months on a still-secret peace proposal, which Palestinians fear will be overly one-sided toward Israel.
The move Thursday nearly closes off all direct diplomatic contacts between the United States and the Palestinians, analysts said.
Ofer Zalzberg of the International Crisis Group think-tank said the US would be the only major power without a separate, independent representative office for the Palestinians.
“Other countries have gone to great lengths to avoid having the same representatives to Israel and the Palestinian Authority,” he told AFP.
Robert Danin, a former senior US government official dealing with Israeli-Palestinian issues, said the move was a victory for “hard right partisans” who have sought to eliminate the Palestinian-focused consulate general “for decades.”
The consulate general “is THE eyes and ears into Palestinian politics and society. Its independence from US Embassy Israel provided Washington w/solid, unvarnished reporting and analysis,” he said on Twitter.
But Eugene Kontorovich, a law professor with the Jerusalem-based Kohelet Policy Forum and advocate for the embassy move, said the decision was more evidence the US considered Jerusalem to be fully part of Israel.
“This step confirms that the US recognizes the entire city as Israel’s capital,” he said.
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert defended the move, saying the new Palestinian Affairs Unit inside the embassy would maintain contacts with Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Jerusalem at the same level as before the change.
“We value our relationship with the Palestinian people. We look forward to continued partnership and dialogue with them and, we hope in future, with the Palestinian leadership,” she said via Twitter.