Last week, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken told visiting Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid that the US will move forward with its plan to reopen its consulate in Jerusalem.
“We’ll be moving forward with the process of opening a consulate as part of deepening of those ties with the Palestinians,” Blinken said at the State Department.
At the news conference which included Lapid and the United Arab Emirates Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Blinken did not set a date for the reopening.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has stated that he will not agree to the reopening of the consulate.
“The prime minister’s consistent stance since the beginning of his term has been and remains that there is no room for a consulate in Jerusalem. This position was also relayed during the prime minister’s visit to Washington as well as through the strategic adviser in talks with the US administration officials. The foreign minister has consistently expressed [support for] the same position in his talks with the Americans, including during his successful Washington trip,” the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement.
The meeting was a reminder of the Trump-brokered Abraham Accords last year which proved that peace in the region was not dependent on a negotiated settlement between Israel and the “Palestinians.”
The 175-year-old consulate served as the de facto embassy to the Palestinian Authority in Jerusalem. In 2019, the Trump administration merged the consulate into the newly opened embassy in Israel’s capital. The embassy was moved from Tel Aviv a year earlier as per the 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Act which emphasized the unity and indivisibility of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital:
“In 1967, the city of Jerusalem was reunited during the conflict known as the Six-Day War… Jerusalem has been a united city administered by Israel… Jerusalem should remain an undivided city… recognized as the capital of the State of Israel,” the act stated.
Nir Barkat, the former mayor of Jerusalem and currently a Likud MK, strongly opposed the move, criticizing the government coalition led by Prime Minister Bennett.
“The Americans are planning to open a Palestinian consulate in Jerusalem,” Barkat wrote on his Facebook page. “This is a unilateral and unprecedented step that will lead to a wave of opening many Palestinian consulates and embassies in Jerusalem.”
“The goal of opening the Palestinian Consulate is to establish Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine and to promote the establishment of a Palestinian state.”
“I am very disturbed that this weak government does not have the ability to stand against the Biden administration. Unfortunately, there are quite a few factors in the government that will be happy about this move that will hit the capital of israel The government is a real danger to a united Jerusalem.”
“We must do everything to replace the current government and block this dangerous step,” Barkat concluded.
Barkat has introduced legislation to block the move. It is unclear whether it is in accordance with US law for the government to establish a political mission over the objections of the host country or whether the establishment of the consulate is legal under the Jerusalem Embassy Act which states that “each sovereign nation, under international law and custom, may designate its own capital.”
Israeli Justice Minister Gideon Saar said Israel would not agree to the consulate’s reopening.
“I spoke with [Bennett a couple of times on the issue,” Saar said, to The Washington Post. “We are on the same page and we don’t see differently. Someone said it’s an electoral commitment. But for us, it’s a generation’s commitment. We will not compromise on this.”