US consulate in Jerusalem
US consulate in JerusalemEliran Aharon

The United States is expected to move ahead with a downgrade of its mission to Palestinian Arabs on Monday by merging its Jerusalem consulate with the embassy to Israel, a US official said Saturday, according to AFP.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced in October that the US would be shuttering the consulate facility in eastern Jerusalem, and would incorporate the services provided there in the US embassy on Agron Street.

While the consulate facility slated for closure had served as the de facto US mission to the Palestinian Authority, primarily serving Jerusalem Arabs and residents of the PA, Pompeo emphasized that the closure did not signify a change in US policy vis-à-vis final status issues including the boundaries of Jerusalem.

He explained that the merger it was intended to improve "efficiency and effectiveness".

PA leaders, however, have seen the decision as another move against them by US President Donald Trump's administration, which they froze contact with after his 2017 decision recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

A date for the merger of the consulate into the embassy had not been announced, but a State Department official told AFP on condition of anonymity that it "is expected to take place on March 4".

The State Department official could not confirm reports that the consul general's residence in Jerusalem would eventually become the home for the US ambassador as part of the embassy's move to Jerusalem, which occurred last May.

The PA is already outraged at Trump for recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and has been boycotting the US ever since Trump’s announcement in December of 2017.

As a result, PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas has rejected the US peace plan being formulated by the Trump administration, and which will be presented after the April 9 election in Israel, before it has even been unveiled.