US insists it’s committed to reopening consulate after officials tell ToI otherwise
Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief
At today’s press briefing, State Department spokesman Ned Price is asked about The Times of Israel’s Sunday report that the Biden administration has settled on a number of steps aimed at boosting ties with the Palestinians in lieu of reopening the US Consulate in Jerusalem.
Price does not deny the report, but insists that the US is still “committed to [re]opening a consulate in Jerusalem” — a line Biden officials have reiterated dozens of times since Secretary of State Antony Blinken first made the announcement over a year ago.
The Israeli government has pushed back against the move, arguing that it is an encroachment on its sovereignty, and Washington has subsequently held off on the pledge, not wanting to pick a fight with its Israeli allies.
“We continue to believe [reopening the consulate] can be an important way for our country to engage with and provide support to the Palestinian people. We’re continuing to discuss this with our Israeli and Palestinian partners and will continue to come up to consult with members of Congress as well,” Price says, refusing once again to offer a timeline for when the campaign pledge might be fulfilled.
“Meanwhile, at this very moment, we have a dedicated team of colleagues working in Jerusalem in our Palestinian Affairs [Unit] focused on engagement with an outreach to the Palestinian people,” he adds, acknowledging that “there are some… unique sensitivities to this particular facility.”
According to two US and Palestinian officials who spoke to The Times of Israel last week, US President Joe Biden will elevate Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Israeli and Palestinian Affairs Hady Amr to the role of special envoy to the Palestinians. Amr will remain in Washington but will make regular trips to the region and work closely with the Palestinian Affairs Unit (PAU), which currently is a branch within the US Embassy to Israel and is housed in the old Jerusalem Consulate building.
In an additional move aimed at setting apart the diplomats serving the Palestinians from those serving the Israelis, the PAU will officially begin reporting directly to Amr in Washington, rather than to the US ambassador in Israel, the US and Palestinian officials said.