Is a showdown brewing over the reopening of a US consulate for Palestinians in Jerusalem?
Bennett, Lapid present united front against promised reopening in Saturday-night press conference
Despite hailing from far ends of the Israeli political spectrum, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid both expressed their opposition to the United States reopening its consulate for the Palestinians in Jerusalem, presenting a united front against America's plans to do just that.
“There is no place for an American consulate that serves the Palestinians in Jerusalem,” Bennett said.
It is “an Israeli objection on principle,” Lapid said. “Sovereignty in Jerusalem belongs to one country – Israel.”
“If the Americans want to open a consulate in Ramallah we have no problem with that,” said Lapid, a centrist who supports a two-state solution.
The two made these statements at a joint press conference on Saturday night.
With the passage of Israel's budget in the Knesset last week – lessening the chances of the fragile government’s collapse – the one-seat majority coalition is on more solid ground now, which may prompt the U.S. to move forward with reopening the consulate at this time.
Former Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, who is a member of the opposition party, Likud, called on the government to support a bill he submitted to prevent opening a Palestinian consulate in Jerusalem.
But while most of the Israeli government appears to be united over this issue, a battle is brewing in Washington. U.S. President Joe Biden has pledged to reopen the consulate which was closed down by former president Donald Trump in 2019 in conjunction with the relocation of the nation’s embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said as recently as October that the administration intends to proceed with the plan, however he has not set a date.
At issue is recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's undivided capital, which Trump acknowledged in favor of Israel. But Palestinians also claim East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state, something the Biden administration would be willing to negotiate.
The Palestinian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Israel has no right to veto America's decision on the matter.
“East Jerusalem is an inseparable part of the occupied Palestinian territory and is the capital of the state of Palestine. Israel, as the occupying power, does not have the right to veto the U.S. administration’s decision,” the statement said.
Last week, the Palestinian Authority renewed calls to reopen the Jerusalem consulate and the PLO diplomatic mission in Washington, which Trump also closed.
The U.S. consulate has served as a de facto embassy for Palestinians as there is none in Ramallah.
But Bennett, who has been intent on forging warm relations with the new Democratic administration, focused on the positive.
“There is so much more that we agree upon with our American friends than we disagree upon,” Bennett said.
Nicole Jansezian was the news editor and senior correspondent for ALL ISRAEL NEWS.