The US Consulate in Jerusalem is training a force of 35 Palestinians from East Jerusalem to serve as armed guards, particularly for consular trips to the West Bank’s Area A, which is off-limits to Israelis, it was reported on Wednesday.
The arrangement violates a 2011 agreement between Israel and the consulate, the Hebrew daily Yedioth Ahronoth stated, whereby only IDF combat veterans would be authorized to carry arms as consulate guards.
“The consulate was authorized to keep roughly 100 handguns for security staff, on condition that they be either American diplomats or Israeli army veterans,” the paper’s Itamar Eichner wrote.
Additionally, Israeli guards at the consulate alleged that the Palestinians were being trained with firearms in Jericho at a Palestinian Preventative Security base and in the United States.
Regional Security Officer Dan Cronin, Israeli guards claimed, “is in effect setting up an armed Palestinian militia in the consulate. They are being trained with weapons, in Krav Maga, and tactical driving. It’s irresponsible. Who can guarantee that such weapons in the hands of Palestinians won’t spread to terror?”
The US Consulate denied a Times of Israel request to speak with Cronin and declined to directly address the assertions in the article. “The US Consulate General in Jerusalem has full confidence in the professionalism of its staff,” a US official said. “We do not discuss the security of our diplomatic missions, but note there are many inaccuracies in the story.”
“In addition,” he said, “we coordinate fully and regularly with local authorities.”
He would not detail the alleged inaccuracies.
The Israeli security guards, three of whom reportedly quit in protest, asserted that the consulate also keeps machine guns and rifles on the premises, further violating the alleged agreement, and that one senior staff member had served time in Israeli prison for membership in the Fatah organization.
The US and many European nations, which do not officially have embassies in the West Bank, keep an embassy in Tel Aviv, which handles Israeli affairs, and a consular office in Jerusalem, straddling the eastern and western sides of the city, which handles Palestinians’ affairs. This requires frequent travel to the West Bank, parts of which are, by law, off-limits to Israeli citizens. Convoys of US staff, therefore, often require the presence of American armed guards.
The US Consulate, stationed on the edge of the Jewish neighborhood of Arnona in West Jerusalem, sees itself, the article stated, “as the embassy of the United States of America in Palestine.”