'Unconscionable': US describes East Jerusalem Palestinians as 'non-Israeli citizens'
In a report published last year, the State Department described East Jerusalem Palestinians as "Palestinian residents of Jerusalem" in sections on civil judicial procedures, discrimination and freedom of movement, Reuters reported on Wednesday.
However, this year’s annual report has changed the term to "Arab residents" or "non-Israeli citizens” in those same sections.
The change in terminology prompted criticism from Palestinians, who have accused the Trump administration of being overtly favourable to Israel since the US recognised Jerusalem as the so-called capital of Israel.
"Palestinian Jerusalemites are Palestinians, and they've been living there for centuries," said Hanan Ashrawi, a senior Palestine Liberation Organisation official who herself holds a Jerusalem residency permit.
"Just to decide this, to eradicate their identity and history and culture and rename them at will, is not only preposterous, its unconscionable," Ashrawi said.
After unilaterally recognising Jerusalem as Israel's capital in December 2017 and its annexation of the Golan from Syria in March 2019, Trump in late January 2020 unveiled a peace plan for the Middle East that included many concessions to Israel.
The peace plan would let Israel annex a third of the West Bank, inside which are hundreds of illegal settlements along with the Jordan Valley.
It would give the Palestinians limited autonomy in a small archipelago of territory with a capital on the outskirts of Jerusalem, but only if they meet the near impossible conditions set out by Trump.
Under the plan, Israel would retain control of the disputed city of Jerusalem as its "undivided capital", and annex settlements on Palestinian lands. Palestinians however want all of east Jerusalem to be the capital of any future state.
The United States is also seeking to eliminate language that would equate occupied East Jerusalem with the occupied West Bank.
It has been roundly rejected by the Palestinians, the Arab League and the Islamic Cooperation Organisation. On Sunday, the African Union followed suit.
Most recently, fifty former foreign ministers and leaders from across Europe have expressed grave concern about Donald Trump's Middle East peace plan in an open letter, comparing it to apartheid in South Africa.