search

Deputy FM hints US will hold off on reopening Jerusalem consulate

Idan Roll says Washington knows Israel is opposed to move and understands political complexities in Jerusalem

Yesh Atid party chairman Yair Lapid seen Idan Roll at a press conference in Tel Aviv, on February 7, 2019 (Flash90)
Yesh Atid party chairman Yair Lapid seen Idan Roll at a press conference in Tel Aviv, on February 7, 2019 (Flash90)

Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister hinted on Sunday that the US would hold off on the Biden administration’s plan to reopen the US consulate in Jerusalem.

Speaking to Ynet, Idan Roll said the Americans understand Israel’s opposition to the move and would likely to take into consideration the challenges facing the current governing coalition.

“They understand the political complexities and the sensitivity, and the issue is being dealt with,” Roll said.

The consulate was shuttered by former US president Trump in 2019 and its staff were folded into the US embassy, moved to the city a year earlier, in what the Palestinians view as a de facto downgrading of their ties with the US.

However, Israel is opposed to the Biden administration’s plan to reopen it.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid recently warned US Secretary of State Antony Blinken that the US plans to move forward could risk toppling the Israeli government, which includes right-wing parties that may not be willing to swallow such a move. They argue that the reopening of a US consulate in Jerusalem that does not serve Israelis will lead other countries to do the same, thus damaging Israel’s sovereignty over the city.

“I don’t know how to hold this coalition together if you reopen the consulate,” Axios quoted Lapid as telling Blinken in their meeting two weeks ago.

US officials maintain that reopening the consulate is simply a return to the pre-Trump status quo and part of Biden’s pledge to renew relations with the Palestinians that were severed during the previous administration. Moreover, they point out that nearly a dozen other countries already operate consulates in Jerusalem that serve the Palestinians.

Axios also reported that Blinken prosed to Lapid that the US and Israel form a joint team tasked with resolving the issue.

US officials maintain that reopening the consulate is simply a return to the pre-Trump status quo and part of Biden’s pledge to renew relations with the Palestinians that were severed during the previous administration. Moreover, they point out that nearly a dozen other countries already operate consulates in Jerusalem that serve the Palestinians.

The United States Consulate General building in Jerusalem, March 4, 2019. (Ariel Schalit/AP)

Blinken told Lapid that he recognized the political sensitivity of the move and said that the goal of the joint team would be for the sides to hold negotiations on the consulate in a discreet fashion aimed at preventing the matter from turning into a larger diplomatic incident, Axios said.

While Blinken notified Israel of Biden’s plan to reopen the consulate in May, Washington subsequently agreed to hold off on the move until after the new government passes a budget next month, in order to give it a chance to stabilize.

Lapid asked Blinken to hold off on convening the joint team until after the budget passed, Axios reported, though it did not reveal how the secretary of state responded.

“Inherent in the request to hold off on the reopening was a recognition that we would still move forward eventually,” one US source familiar with the matter told The Times of Israel earlier this year.

 

read more:
comments
Never miss breaking news on Israel
Get notifications to stay updated
You're subscribed