The US State Department once again is resuscitating the idea of reopening a Jerusalem consulate. But according to Al-Arabiya, the US is committed to the reopening of the US consulate in Jerusalem. Ned Price, the State Department spokesman told reporters last Tuesday that, “We continue to believe it can be an important way for our country to engage with and provide support for the Palestinian people.” If that is to happen, the Biden administration will be responsible for rewarding the Palestinians for their intransigence and terror, as well as undermining Israel’s sovereignty over a united Jerusalem.
The Bennett government is very much against such a move by the US. Israel contends that it would clearly erode Israel’s position in Jerusalem. Joe Biden, as a contender for the US presidency in 2020, made a campaign promise to reverse his predecessor’s decision in 2019, to close the Jerusalem consulate in eastern Jerusalem, and move its operations to the newly established US embassy to Israel in Jerusalem. President Trump, in an unprecedented action, moved the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Israel’s historical capital, and the seat of the Israeli government. Winning the 2020 elections, President Biden rushed to undo most of President Trump’s moves in the region, but he nonetheless resolved to keep the US embassy in Jerusalem.
Several US presidents, both Democrat and Republican, promised in their election campaigns to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. None kept their promise. It was Donald Trump, however, who really kept his promise. Considering what Jerusalem meant for Israelis and Jews everywhere, it was simply an inconceivable bias by the past US administrations to single out Israel as virtually the only democratic state whose real capital (Jerusalem) was not recognized officially by its supposed allies and friends. All of them kept their embassies in Tel Aviv.
Cognizant of an Israeli pushback against the Biden administration’s decision to reopen the Jerusalem consulate, which was hitherto delayed, prompted Ned Price to say, ”There are a number of steps that go into the reopening of any diplomatic facility.” A report in the Times of Israel, suggested that the Biden administration has settled on a number of steps aimed at boosting ties with the Palestinians in lieu of reopening the US consulate in Jerusalem.
The steps referred to by the Biden administration officials and explained to the Times of Israel include; elevating Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Israel and Palestinian Affairs Hady Amr, to the role of Special Envoy to the Palestinians. Amr will be based in Washington but will make regular trips to the region, and work closely with the Palestinian Affairs Unit (PAU), which is currently a section within the US Jerusalem embassy to Israel, but it will be housed in the old consulate building in eastern Jerusalem.
Late last year, 200 Republican members of Congress led by US Representative Lee Zeldin (R-NY), signed a letter addressed to the Biden administration which rejected the Biden administrations decision to reopen the Jerusalem consulate. It stated that the consulate (closed by President Trump in 2019) is not compatible with US law, pointing out that Jerusalem is Israel’s only and undivided capital. The letter charged that the Biden administration would create a misguided situation in which the US would essentially have two separate diplomatic missions in Israel’s capital.
The Republican House members argued furthermore that the US consulate General in Jerusalem that was established in 1844 was not intended to serve as an outreach to the Palestinians in Israel’s capital. Their letter urged the Biden administration to respect America’s close ally Israel, and its opposition to the reopening of the consulate.
Back in November 2021, Israel’s Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, in a closed door meeting in Washington with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, has reportedly warned Blinken that reopening the consulate in Jerusalem “would risk toppling the coalition government.” This came in response to Blinken stating in a joint press conference with Lapid earlier in Washington, that the Biden administration intends to proceed with the consulate plan. Blinken stated, “As I said in May, we’ll be moving with the process of opening a consulate as part of deepening ties with the Palestinians.”
The Palestinian leadership in Ramallah has angrily rejected the Trump peace deal, titled Peace to Prosperity: A Vision to Improve the Lives of the Palestinian and Israeli People, unveiled on January 28, 2020. Mahmud Abbas, chairman of the PA, and his leadership, said no to the plan even before it was presented, and they did so without offering modifications to the plan or an alternative plan. Abbas was encouraged by some of the leading Democratic Party 2020 presidential candidates who denounced the Trump peace plan as a “smokescreen for annexation.” And yet, while some of the Democratic contenders dismissed the Trump peace plan, the ambassadors of Bahrain, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates, who were present at the launch of the Trump peace plan, welcomed it. Other Arab states, including Egypt, Morocco, and Saudi Arabia, expressed their support for the Trump peace efforts, and praised many of the elements in the plan.
In fact, the Trump peace plan preserved the boundaries of the two-state solution, while providing the Palestinians land from inside Israel’s June 4, 1967 territory to compensate for Israel’s absorbing the Israeli/Jewish settlement blocs in historical Judea and Samaria. Much like all previous no’s by the Palestinians, this was another no to peace from the Palestinians, who have refused to end the conflict. Moreover, the PA, and Abbas himself, are inciting violence against Israel at every given opportunity, and continue a policy of “pay to slay,” in which international humanitarian monetary aid to the Palestinians is being used as payments to the families of convicted Palestinian terrorists who have murdered Israelis.
While the Biden administration has refrained from specification of Jerusalem’s final status, the message is nevertheless a clear backtracking from Trump’s plan that stipulated that “Jerusalem will remain the sovereign capital of the State of Israel, and that it should remain an undivided city.” To erase Trump’s positive achievements in the region, the Biden team is seeking to reward the Palestinians at Israel’s expense, by undermining Israel’s sovereignty over Jerusalem. It is mystifying why the Biden administration would once again seek dividing Jerusalem into two separate diplomatic entities: A US embassy to Israel in Jerusalem, and a US consulate for Palestinians in eastern Jerusalem. If indeed the Palestinians merit a special consulate, why not set it up in Ramallah?