Businesses campaigning to keep Philadelphia consulate open

Foreign Ministry officials say closing mission in favor of one in Chengdu, China would send a bad diplomatic message.

Philadelphia skyline 370 (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Philadelphia skyline 370
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Amid increasing signs that Israel will close its consulate in Philadelphia to open a new one in China, the Philadelphia-Israel Chamber of Commerce started a campaign last week urging Israel to keep the Philadelphia office open.
Richard Bendit, the president of the organization, said closing the consulate would be a blow to the region, and an even greater loss to Israel.
"The Greater Philadelphia region plays a key role in accelerating US-Israeli business development, advocating pro-Israeli causes, and strengthening cultural, political and philanthropic ties between our countries," he said.
According to Bendit, approximately 25% of Israel's $5 billion of exports to the US passes through the Greater Philadelphia region, which boasts the fifth largest Jewish community in the US.
"The vacuum that would be created by closing the Consulate would undermine historically strong ties between local and Israeli businesses, academic institutions, philanthropic organizations, and other influential groups and individuals,” he said.
The Foreign Ministry is expected to decide in the near future whether to close the mission in Philadelphia to free up funds to open a consulate in Chengdu, a city of some 14 million people in China's Sichuan province, and one of the country's most important financial and communications centers.
Deputy Foreign Minister Ze'ev Elkin came out recently in a ministry meeting in favor of closing the Philadelphia consulate because he said Israel had ample representation in nearby Boston, Washington and New York, which could cover the region now under the Philadelphia consulate’s jurisdiction. Other voices in the ministry, however, said closing an office in the US to open one in China would send a bad diplomatic message, and that Israel should consider closing an embassy or consulate elsewhere, perhaps in Belarus, Albania, St. Petersburg or Marseilles.
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 Francisco. In China, In addition to its embassy in Beijing and the consulate to open in Chengdu, Israel has missions in Hong Kong, Shanghai and Guangzhou.