Photo Credit: Hillel Maeir/TPS
United States Consulate in Jerusalem. Jan 23, 2017.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and the state of Israel have the legal means to block the US’ attempts to open a consulate in eastern Jerusalem for the Arabs, according to international legal expert Professor Eugene Kontorovich, the Director of International Law at the Jerusalem-based Kohelet Policy Forum.

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Lapid said that Israel thinks that the reopening of the consulate, which was closed by President Donald Trump in 2018 when the embassy was moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, is “a bad idea and we’ve told America we think it’s a bad idea.”

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The move “will send the wrong message, not only to the region, not only to the Palestinians, but also to other countries, and we don’t want this to happen.”

Furthermore, “we have an interesting yet delicate structure of our government and we think this might destabilize this government and I don’t think the American administration wants this to happen,” he said.

The Bennett-Lapid government had reportedly asked the Biden administration to delay the opening of the consulate and thus prevent another political crisis that would threaten the government’s stability, at least until after the budget is passed in November.

Offering advice on the issue, Professor Eugene Kontorovich, who closely advised the Trump Administration on closing the Jerusalem consulate, noted that “the Americans cannot legally – or practically – reopen a consulate in Jerusalem without explicit Israeli approval.”

“If Lapid thinks a consulate for the Palestinians in Jerusalem is a bad idea, all he has to do is refuse to give it or the consul accreditation. The ball is in his court.” Kontorovich pointed out.

President Joe Biden pledged during his elections campaign to reopen the consulate in eastern Jerusalem. It would serve as a special liaison for Palestinian affairs.

Biden reportedly raised the issue during his meeting with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett last week in Washington.

Israeli Ambassador to the US Gilad Erdan stated in May that Israel has “strongly opposed the reopening of the consulate in the municipal area of Jerusalem.”

Israel suggested that the US reopen the consulate outside Jerusalem’s municipal boundaries, possibly in Abu Dis.

Member of Knesset Nir Barkat, Jerusalem’s former mayor, has launched a campaign against the Biden administration’s plan to reopen the consulate, warning that it would be a de facto split of Israel’s capital.

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Aryeh Savir is director of the International division of Tazpit News Agency.
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