Israel has told the Biden administration that it is opposed to any plan to reopen the US consulate-general that services the Palestinians in Jerusalem because the city is the undivided capital of the Jewish state, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett told reporters on Saturday night.
“My position, which has been presented to the Americans by myself and by Foreign Minister Lapid, is that there is no place for an American consulate that serves the Palestinians in Jerusalem,” Bennett said.
“We have expressed our position [to the US] determinedly, quietly, without drama, and I hope it will be understood. Jerusalem is the capital of Israel alone.”
Lapid backed up Bennett, saying that “sovereignty in Jerusalem [belongs] to one country, the State of Israel,” and that “this is a principled stance of the State of Israel to the opening of a consulate in Jerusalem.”
The issue here is Jerusalem and not a consulate for the Palestinians, Lapid stressed, adding that the US was welcome to open a consulate for the Palestinians in Ramallah.
Former President Donald Trump in 2019 had closed the long-standing US consulate-general in Jerusalem that serviced the Palestinians and acted as a de-facto embassy to the Palestinian Authority. It had provided a direct line between the PA and Washington. Its services were merged with those of the US Embassy, which was relocated from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in 2018.
The Biden administration has promised the PA it will reopen the consulate-general but has not yet made good on that pledge or even provided a date for such an opening.
It had been expected that the US would only push forward with the matter once the government had successfully approved its budget on Thursday.
It is presumed that this issue will be a growing point of tension between Jerusalem and Washington, along with continued settlement activity which the Biden administration frowns upon.
It’s as if the US would need Israel’s approval to reopen the consulate, even though the building itself exists and the change is solely on the policy level.
Bennett downplayed the significance of Israeli opposition to American plans to reopen the consulate-general.
“There is so much more that we agree upon with our American friends, than we disagree upon,” he said.
Bennett and Lapid spoke as Senior Advisor for Global Energy Security Amos Hochstein is due to visit Israel and the Palestinian territories on Sunday and Monday. He will meet with senior Israeli and Palestinian senior officials to discuss energy security. Hochstein will also discuss maritime negotiations with Israeli officials.
In addition to Hochstein’s arrival, Colombian President Ivan Duque will land in Israel on Sunday for a three-day visit.
On Tuesday he will open a trade and innovation office in Jerusalem that will be a satellite of its Tel Aviv office. The move is a nod to Colombian recognition of Israeli sovereignty over its capital city.