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Palestinians pan Israel for opposing US consulate in Jerusalem

PA Foreign Ministry says East Jerusalem is capital of Palestine and Israelis can’t veto Washington’s decision, but State Dept has acknowledged Israel’s okay is required

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

The Palestinian Authority on Sunday slammed Israel for resisting the promised reopening of the US consulate in Jerusalem, a move that would restore Washington’s main diplomatic mission for the Palestinians in the city.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said late Saturday there was no room in Jerusalem for another American mission.

US President Joe Biden has pledged to reopen the consulate, but the issue has been a sticking point between Israel and the US, as well as among some members of Congress.

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

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.

Though reopening the consulate, which is located in the west of the capital and not East Jerusalem, could help mend US ties with the Palestinians ruptured under Trump, Israel says such a move would challenge its sovereignty over the city.

In a statement, the Palestinian Authority Foreign Ministry said it views the reopening of the consulate as part of the international community’s commitments to ending Israel’s decades-long occupation of territories the Palestinians seek for their future state.

“East Jerusalem is an inseparable part of the occupied Palestinian territory and is the capital of the state of Palestine. Israel, as the occupying power, does not have the right to veto the US administration’s decision,” the statement said.

Asked Saturday night about the consulate at a press conference, Bennett repeated Israel’s position on Jerusalem.

“There’s no room for another American consulate in Jerusalem,” he said. “Jerusalem is the capital of one state and that’s the State of Israel.”

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid suggested the consulate could instead be opened in the Palestinian administrative center in Ramallah in the West Bank. The Palestinians reject the idea because it would undermine their claims to Jerusalem.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett holds a news conference at the Government Press Office in, Jerusalem, November 6, 2021. (Ohad Zwigenberg/Pool Photo via AP)

Asked about the issue during a press conference alongside Lapid in Washington last month, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken reiterated the Biden administration’s intention to proceed with the plan. “As I said in May, we’ll be moving forward with the process of opening a consulate as part of deepening those ties with the Palestinians,” he said.

Behind closed doors, Lapid reportedly warned Blinken that such a move could risk toppling the coalition government.

Israel views Jerusalem as its eternal, undivided capital. The Palestinians seek the eastern part of the city, which Israel gained in the 1967 Six Day War and later annexed, as the capital of their hoped-for state.

The consulate is emerging as another point of friction between Bennett’s government and the Biden administration, which has moved to restore traditional US foreign policy toward Israel and the Palestinians after the Trump White House largely sided with Israel on issues related to the conflict.

Blinken has not provided a firm date for the reopening.

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