Likud's Barkat heads to Washington to stop Palestinian consulate opening

The Likud MK argues that opening a consulate to a foreign entity – the Palestinian Authority – on Israeli territory undermines its sovereignty in Jerusalem and is a move towards dividing the capital.

NIR BARKAT at a rally supporting him on Thursday night, June 10 2021 (photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/ MAARIV)
NIR BARKAT at a rally supporting him on Thursday night, June 10 2021
Likud MK Nir Barkat is on a mission: To stop the US from opening a mission to the Palestinians in Jerusalem.
The former mayor of Israel’s capital flew to the US on Thursday to advance that cause, for meetings in New York and Washington with members of both houses of the US Congress and to appear in US media.
US President Joe Biden has said he plans to keep his predecessor’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital intact. However, the Biden administration has also said it seeks to reopen the US Consulate to the Palestinians in Jerusalem, which former US president Donald Trump ordered closed in 2018, after moving the US Embassy to Israel to the capital.
The Likud MK argues that opening a consulate to a foreign entity – the Palestinian Authority – on Israel’s territory undermines its sovereignty in Jerusalem, and is a move towards dividing the capital.
Barkat plans “to present his stance against opening the Palestinian consulate in Jerusalem and the ramifications of such a move on Jerusalem’s unity,” his spokeswoman said.
The Likud MK, the wealthiest politician in Israel, paid for the trip himself.
The visit to the US comes after a report in Palestinian news outlet Al Quds on Thursday that the American Consulate to the Palestinians will be reopened in September, at its former location on Agron Street in central Jerusalem, which is currently the ambassador’s residence.
“Just as I warned, the Lapid-Bennett government plans to allow a Palestinian consulate to be opened in Jerusalem, the capital of Israel,” Barkat said on twitter. “After the first is opened, European countries will open more Palestinian consulates in Jerusalem, one after one, and Lapid and Bennett will allow the de facto division of Jerusalem.”
There already are several European missions to the Palestinians in Jerusalem, such as from France, Italy, Sweden and the Vatican, but they were opened before the establishment of the State of Israel.
Israeli and American sources indicated that Barkat need not have rushed to Washington, denying the Al Quds report that the opening will be in September.
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid would have to authorize the opening of any diplomatic mission on sovereignty Israeli territory.
Not only did Lapid not receive any requests from the US to open a consulate in Jerusalem, but the Biden administration did not raise the topic at all recently, an Israeli diplomatic source said.
The US Embassy in Israel said that “as Secretary Blinken said when he was here and many other US officials have said since then, we are moving forward with the process to reopen our Consulate General in Jerusalem. We are in the process of determining when and where to open it. We cannot give you a timeline on how long that will take.”
The American source said that the consulate is the Palestinian Authority’s top request from Washington, but “there is nothing imminent.”
Earlier this week, Barkat proposed a bill to amend Basic Law: Jerusalem Capital of Israel, which would make it illegal for the Israeli government to allow a diplomatic mission serving a foreign entity in Jerusalem.
The explanatory portion of the bill argues that opening diplomatic missions to foreign entities has “the legal or practical meaning of blurring Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem.
“As is practiced in the world and international law, including and especially the Vienna Consular Convention, no sovereign state allows a foreign country to open a diplomatic mission on its territory that is meant to serve residents of a third state or entity, certainly not to a hostile entity,” the bill reads.
Deputy Assistant Secretary for Israeli and Palestinian Affairs Hady Amr was in the region this week, for meetings with government officials and civil society groups in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Ramallah and Bethlehem.
On Thursday, the US Palestinian Affairs Unit tweeted that Amr “heard from civil society in Ramallah re: need for a political horizon for Palestinians, met UN and PA officials and visited a summer camp for girls. Visit continues to advance equal measures of freedom, security and prosperity for Israelis and Palestinians.”