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U.S.-Israel Relations: History of the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem

The U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem was first established in 1844 and was located in the Old City, just inside the Jaffa Gate. A permanent consular office was established in 1856 in this same building, which is today the Swedish Christian Study Center.

The Mission moved to a second site on Prophets' Street, a few blocks outside the Old City, in the late nineteenth century before relocating in 1912 to its present location on Agron Road. The main building of the current Consulate General was built in 1868 by the German Lutheran missionary Ferdinand Vester, whose family and associates built many of the Arab-style homes in Jerusalem (particularly in the nearby German Colony), as well as the American Colony Hotel. The building was one of the first houses constructed outside the Old City walls, built at the same time that Moses Montefiore founded the housing area of Yemin Moshe outside the Old City. The original building had only two stories; a third story was added in the early twentieth century. It now houses both the Consul General's residence and office space for Consulate General employees. A second site has been under U.S. Government lease since 1952 on Nablus Road to house offices that provide American citizen and visa services.
In 2006, the U.S. Consulate General expanded its presence on Agron Road with a lease of an adjacent building for its administrative and public affairs offices. The building, a monastery of the Congregation of the Mission, also known as the Lazarists, was built in the 1860s and still houses a small group of clergy. The walls of both buildings are built of distinctive Jerusalem red Slayeb stone. Roman arch windows and doorways add to their architectural beauty.
All Jerusalem offices are united under the authority of the U.S. Consul General, who heads an independent U.S. mission that is the official diplomatic representation of the United States in Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza. The Consulate General also provides services to American citizens in Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza. Throughout its history, staff of the Consulate General has included Christians, Muslims, and Jews, demonstrating that people of different faiths and nationalities can work together in peace in this region.

In January 2015 the United States announced a plan to hire 35 Palestinian security gaurds from the West Bank to gaurd the US consulate in Jerusalem. US officials announced that the individuals who were to be hired had undergone weapons training in Jericho and were screened and approved by United States diplomats.  This decision was made by the consulate's chief security officer, Dan Cronin, and was met with severe backlash from not only the Israeli employees of the consulate but also from individuals in the Israeli government. Israelis at the consulate and in the government are upset by this announcement because it is in violation of an agreement signed in 2011 by the consulate and the Israeli government that states that only former IDF combat soldiers can be armed gaurds of the consulate.  In protest of the decision to hire some Palestinian gaurds, three Israeli security gaurds working at the consulate quit in early 2015.  Workers at the consulate have accused Cronin of making anti-Israel remarks on multiple occasions.  Some of the Palestinians that he decided to hire to work security at the consulate have been arrested in the past for throwing stones and molotov cocktails at Israeli security forces, and some of them have relatives who are linked to terrorist organizations. 

Sources: Consulate General of the United States in Jerusalem; Ynet News (January 14 2015)