With Prime Minister Bennett set to meet with U.S. President Biden this Thursday, it is critical to discuss the American intention to reopen a consulate in Jerusalem that will serve only Arabs.
Three months ago, when Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Israel and the PA, he declared that the Biden administration would reopen its consulate in Jerusalem. Until it was closed in 2019 by the Trump administration, following the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem, the consulate had served as a de facto embassy for Arabs of the Palestinian Authority.
Prime Minister Bennett must make it clear that Israel will absolutely not accept the decision to reopen the consulate, and here are ten good reasons why:
- Undermines Already Beleaguered Israeli Sovereignty
Based on past experience, we know that a new consulate will serve as a de facto embassy for Arabs of the PA and even of Jerusalem, and this essentially undermines Israeli sovereignty in its capital city.
“The act of establishing a Palestinian consulate in Jerusalem means recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine. [This is] a dangerous decision… a red line that cannot be crossed.” So said former Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, and they are the sentiments as well of most of the Israeli Knesset, both opposition and coalition members.
Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Aryeh King called the initiative “a spiteful move that seeks to undermine Israel’s absolute sovereignty over Jerusalem” – sovereignty that continues to be under fire from those who wish to see Jerusalem become the capital of a new Arab state.
- It Distances Peace
Opening a consulate in Jerusalem for the Palestinian Authority will raise the PA’s standing in Washington, thus encouraging it not to make concessions and perpetuating the state of non-peace or worse.
- The Embassy Obviates the Need for a Consulate
There is no need to reopen the consulate, as all consular services are already provided by the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem. As The Hill explained, “There is no case in the entire world where a [U.S.] consulate general exists in the same city as a U.S. embassy.” In 2019, some months after the Embassy was opened in Jerusalem, all American diplomatic activity was logically and efficiently consolidated into a single mission – and no other one is needed.
- Violates International Law
Such a move is likely in violation of international law. The Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961 – which defines a framework for diplomatic relations between independent countries – stipulates that the “guest state may not, without the prior express consent of the receiving state, establish offices forming part of the mission in localities other than those in which the mission itself is established.”
- Violates Israeli Law
It is similarly likely in violation of Israeli law. Israel’s Basic Law: Jerusalem, the Capital of Israel (1980) stipulates, “Jerusalem, complete and united, is the capital of Israel.” Opening a diplomatic mission in the city on behalf of a foreign entity is thus apparently illegal in establishing Jerusalem as the capital of a country other than Israel.
- Violates American Law
It similarly is likely in violation of U.S. law. The Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995, passed overwhelmingly by the U.S. House and Senate, recognized united Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and states that “Jerusalem should remain an undivided city.”
- Perpetual Cause of Friction
America’s Jerusalem consulate has for decades been “a perpetual cause of friction with the U.S. Embassy to Israel and … a hotbed for some anti-Israel ideologues.” So explained former U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman to journalist Michael Ireland – to which can be added that the consulate has in the past worked closely with “Arabists” in the State Department, who are openly hostile to Israel.
- Ramallah, Not Jerusalem
Even if the U.S. decides it needs a consulate for PA Arabs, it should be in Ramallah, where the PA is entirely based. As Jeff Ballabon of the American Center for Law and Justice has written, “The PA has no presence in Jerusalem and has never been located there.”
- Beachhead for Hostile Terrorist Government
Ballabon also wrote: “It is troubling enough that Biden would re-engage with the terror-supporting PA and send it money (also likely a violation of U.S. law); but to establish a beachhead for a hostile terrorist pseudo-government in the center of a sovereign state’s capital? To promote the PA while it continues publicly to pay terrorists and promote the eradication of all Israel?”
- Sends a Discriminatory U.S. Signal
For the U.S. to open a consulate in Jerusalem just for Arabs “delivers a dangerous and ambiguous signal that this administration may well support a divided Jerusalem,” writes former Deputy National Security Advisor Eliot Abrams. “The fact that the United States is even considering such a move is another unfortunate example of Israel being held to a different and discriminatory standard by the international community. Other nations, including the United States, would not allow a foreign country to divide their capitals or open consulates therein serving a third party or foreign entity…
“The United States should respect Israel’s choice of Jerusalem as its capital and not make it the only place on earth where the United States places both its embassy and a permanent mission to a foreign entity in the capital of a sovereign state. That is precisely the kind of damaging and discriminatory treatment of Israel that Democrats and Republicans in Congress have long pledged to avoid and indeed to condemn.”