No decision is imminent on closing the Israeli Consulate in Philadelphia, or a
consulate or embassy in another country, to make possible the opening of a
diplomatic mission in Chengdu, a spokeswoman for Deputy Foreign Minister Ze’ev
Elkin said on Wednesday.
The spokeswoman was responding to a Walla story
on Wednesday saying that Elkin disagreed with senior ministry staffers who
wanted to keep Philadelphia open and – if need be for budgetary purposes – close
a consulate or even an embassy elsewhere.
Elkin said recently in a
ministry meeting discussing the issue that while important, the Philadelphia
consulate could be closed because Israel had ample representation in nearby
Boston, Washington and New York, which could cover the region now under the
Philadelphia consulate’s jurisdiction.
In addition to the embassy in
Washington, Israel has consulates in nine US cities: New York, Boston,
Philadelphia, Miami, Atlanta, Houston, Chicago, Los Angeles and San
One ministry official said Israel would send a bad diplomatic
message if it closed a consulate in the US in order to open one in
In addition to its embassy in Beijing and the consulate to open in
Chengdu, Israeli has missions in Hong Kong, Shanghai and
Chengdu, a city of some 14 million people, is the capital of
Sichuan province, and one of China’s most important financial and communications
There is no debate inside the Foreign Ministry about whether
another consulate should be opened in China, a country with which Israel is
seeking to significantly deepen its relationship. The question is only what to
close to free up the necessary funds.
The official also asked why there
was a need for an embassy in Belarus, a country shunned by much of the West, or
a consulate in St. Petersburg. Both those mission were opened under the
term of former foreign minister Avigdor Liberman, and represented an effort to
put more of a diplomatic emphasis on countries of the former Soviet
The official also suggested that Israel would be better off
closing its consulate in Marseilles, rather than in Philadelphia.
not close the embassy in Albania, or El Salvador,” he continued. “Do we really
need embassies there? Do I need boots on the ground in El Salvador, can’t that
be covered by a non-resident ambassador from Guatemala.”
Elkin was quoted
in the Walla report as having told an internal ministry meeting that with Israel
fighting a number of battles in international forums, it was important for
Israel’s flag to fly in as many capitals as possible.
It was impossible
to tell whether in a year or two Israel might not need the assistance in the UN
or elsewhere of the country where it closed its embassy.
MK Nachman Shai
(Labor), who heads the Knesset caucus on US-Israel relations, said the
Philadelphia Consulate should not be closed.
“Israel should be adding
more consulates in the US, not closing them, even though we also need more
consulates in China,” he said.
“We are in the middle of an important
struggle for support in the US. Closing it now would harm that
Another MK, who asked to be named, said in reference to Elkin
that Russian immigrants were less US-centric and did not understand the
importance of the American Jewish community.
Over the years Israel has
closed and opened the doors to various embassies and consulates around the world
depending on budgetary constraints and changing diplomatic realities.
Hoffman contributed to this report.