PA claims US doesn’t need Israel’s permission to reopen Jerusalem consulate

But Jerusalem must back move, according to diplomatic protocol; Mohammad Shtayyeh resists calls to have American mission in Ramallah

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh holds a briefing with foreign press at his office in the West Bank city of Ramallah, November 10, 2021. (Abbas Momani/AFP)
Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh holds a briefing with foreign press at his office in the West Bank city of Ramallah, November 10, 2021. (Abbas Momani/AFP)

The United States does not need Israel’s “permission” to reopen its consulate for the Palestinians in Jerusalem, the Palestinian Authority prime minister claimed Wednesday, urging Washington to honor its diplomatic pledges.

Israel, however, must accredit the consular general that the US sends to Jerusalem, according to the diplomatic protocol, making it impossible for Washington to take such a step without its backing.

US President Joe Biden’s administration has said it would reopen the diplomatic mission historically responsible for Palestinian affairs. The consulate was shuttered by then-US president Donald Trump in 2019 and its staff was folded into the US embassy — which had been moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem a year earlier — in what the Palestinians view as a downgrading of their ties with the US.

The mission was based on Jerusalem’s Agron Street and also included a consular services office in East Jerusalem, which the Palestinians claim as the capital of their future state.

Briefing foreign reporters in the West Bank city of Ramallah, PA Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh asserted “the United States does not need the permission of anybody” to reopen the mission.

However, a senior US State Department official recently told senators that Israel’s permission would be required before the United States could reopen the consulate.

Shtayyeh’s comments came after Prime Minister Naftali Bennett told reporters Saturday that “there’s no room for another American consulate in Jerusalem,” clearly stating his government would resist moves by Washington to restore the Palestinian mission. Bennett is a hawk who opposes Palestinian statehood.

A flag of the United States flies outside the then-US consulate building in Jerusalem, March 4, 2019. (Ariel Schalit/AP)

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid told the same news conference that Israel would have no objection to the US opening a mission in Ramallah, the PA’s seat of power.

“Ramallah is not Jerusalem, and Ramallah is not the capital of Palestine,” Shtayyeh said Wednesday.

“It is our hope that what (the US) promised will be fulfilled,” he added.

Shtayyeh also called for tougher US action against settlement expansion in the West Bank.

He said that if the US can blacklist the Israeli company NSO Group over its Pegasus spyware product that Washington deemed contrary to American interests last week, it should also be able to “sanction” exports from settlements.

The issue of settlements has been a recent point of tensions between the Biden administration and Israel, following the recent advancement of plans for over 3,000 homes.

US President Joe Biden meets with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, on August 27, 2021. (Nicholas Kamm/AFP)

Shtayyeh also accused Israel of refusing to accept a two-state solution, which he said would perpetuate a system of “apartheid” and eventually result in a one-state reality in which Israel loses its Jewish character.

At a press conference with foreign reporters, Shtayyeh accused Bennett of “three no’s”: No to meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, no to peace negotiations and no to a Palestinian state.

“If you have three no’s, what are your yes’s?” Shtayyeh asked.

It appeared to be a reference to the famous “Three No’s” adopted by the Arab League after the 1967 Six Day War: No peace with Israel, no recognition and no negotiations. Since then, Egypt and Jordan have made peace with Israel and an additional four Arab countries recognized it last year.

Shtayyeh reiterated the Palestinians’ longstanding demands for a negotiated peace agreement that would create a Palestinian state in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza, territories Israel captured from Jordan and Egypt in the 1967 war. He called on the United States and the international community to do more to revive the long-dormant peace process.

Israel says it made generous offers to the Palestinians in past rounds of peace talks going back to the 1990s, while the Palestinians say those proposals fell short of their rights under international law. The two sides have held no substantive peace talks in more than a decade.

“If we lose the two-state solution we are slipping into a one-state reality,” Shtayyeh said, echoing remarks made by Abbas at the UN General Assembly in September.

“Israel is an apartheid state today and Israel will continue to be tomorrow as well,” he added. “If they think that we are losing tomorrow, they will be losing after tomorrow.”

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas addresses the United Nations General Assembly remotely from his office in Ramallah, on September 24, 2021 (Screenshot)

Separately, days after the World Bank raised concerns about the PA’s budget deficit, expected to reach $1.36 billion in 2021, Shtayyeh said he had asked for help from a US congressional delegation that visited Ramallah on Wednesday.

“The United States used also to support our budget deficit over the year… I did ask congressman today to really help us with that issue,” he said.

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