Photo Credit: Google Maps
The old Ameican consulate at 20 Agron Street in western Jerusalem.

Israel’s Army Radio reported Wednesday morning that Prime Minister Naftali Bennett was surprised by US pressure on him regarding the construction of settlements in Judea and Samaria. According to the report, Bennett informed his cabinet ministers of the American hard stance on settlement construction, saying, “They consider this to be very important to them.”

Back in August, ahead of his first meeting in Washington with President Joe Biden, Bennett told the New York Times that he “opposed US efforts to restore a nuclear deal with Iran and ruled out peace talks with the Palestinians.” Bennett said he wanted to expand the Judea and Samaria Jewish settlements, did not want a “consulate for Palestinians” in Jerusalem and vowed there won’t be a Palestinian State on his watch.

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Bennett’s office declined to comment on the Army Radio report, saying they don’t comment on what’s being said behind closed doors in the cabinet.

Sources close to the White House told the Arab newspaper Al-Quds on Tuesday that the Biden government had decided to reopen the US consulate in eastern Jerusalem despite pressure from the Israeli government and congressional lawmakers.

According to sources quoted in the Al-Quds report, the consulate is expected to reopen “shortly” after the passing of the state budget by the Knesset in November, meaning that the consulate would open in early December.

Happy holidays.

The same sources claimed that the United States is angry at Israel’s expanding settlement in Judea and Samaria, as well as the clashes between Jewish settlers and local Arabs on the slopes of Mount Hebron.

The United States appears to be pushing for the resumption of operations at its “Palestinian consulate” on Agron Street in western Jerusalem. Senior Israeli government officials strongly oppose the move, which is seen as a symbolic division of Jerusalem in preparation for a US recognition of it as the capital of the Palestinian State.

According to the American sources, the administration will initially try to reach agreements with Israel on the reopening, and if this fails, once the state budget is approved and the coalition government’s stability is secure, the US may move unilaterally on the consulate.

Former Jerusalem Mayor MK Nir Barkat (Likud) tweeted Tuesday: “We won’t allow the opening of a Palestinian consulate that will divide the united Jerusalem, the eternal capital of the Jewish people.”

Orit Strock who chairs the Religious Zionism faction in the Knesset said: “The establishment of a consulate will constitute the division of Jerusalem, which is a terrible thing. But to declare the establishment of such a consulate while the Prime Minister opposes it is simply to turn the State of Israel into a banana republic, a United States subordinate state that has no say about its capital city. It is inconceivable for such an essential issue concerning the very independence of the state not to be debated in the Knesset.”

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David writes news at JewishPress.com.