Photo Credit: Yonatan Sindel / Flash 90
US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Ivanka Trump reveal a dedication plaque at the official opening ceremony of the US Embassy in Jerusalem on May 14, 2018.

Republican members of Congress and the Senate have banded together to scorch a Biden Administration plan to upgrade the Palestinian Affairs Unit in the US Embassy in Jerusalem, just a few weeks prior to President Joe Biden’s planned trip to Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Saudi Arabia.

The statement, released Thursday and endorsed by more than 80 lawmakers, was led by Senator Bill Hagerty (R-TN) and Congress members Lee Zeldin (R-NY).

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The lawmakers accused the Biden Administration of opening “what amounts to be a separate US diplomatic office to the Palestinians in Israel’s capital.”

The Trump Administration implemented the long-standing Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 by formally recognizing Jerusalem as the eternal and undivided capital of Israel, moving the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and closing the US Consulate General for the Palestinians in Jerusalem. The Consulate functions were merged into the US Embassy’s ‘Palestinian Affairs Unit’ within one diplomatic mission under the authority the US Ambassador to Israel.

The Biden Administration now intends to move the Palestinian Affairs Unit – currently part of the Embassy – out of the reporting chain of command that leads to the US Ambassador to Israel. It instead plans to rename the Unit as the “US Office of Palestinian Affairs” which would then serve, in effect, as the unofficial US Consulate to Palestinian Authority citizens in Jerusalem.

“This decision is wholly inconsistent with the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 that Congress passed into law and has repeatedly reaffirmed with overwhelming bipartisan support over the years,” the lawmakers say in the statement.

“The Biden Administration’s disregard for that law, however, undermines our nation’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and signals support for dividing Jerusalem.

“Let there be no misunderstanding: this unprecedented arrangement — to turn the Palestinian Affairs Unit into a ‘US Office of Palestinian Affairs’ that will no longer report to the US Ambassador to Israel but instead report directly to the State Department in Washington, DC, and to appoint a Special Envoy to the Palestinians — is an effort to open an unofficial and de facto US Consulate to the Palestinians in Jerusalem.

“In fact, the Biden Administration admits this decision is one step closer to opening an official US consulate, a plan it refuses to stop pushing despite the Government of Israel’s adamant opposition and Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources Brian McKeon’s admission to Congress in October 2021 that the United States, under international law, would ‘need to get the consent of the host government to open any diplomatic facility,’ the lawmakers said.

“The Biden Administration’s decision is wrong and not how America should treat Israel, one of our closest allies in the world.

“As sponsors of the Upholding the 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Law Act of 2021 to withhold funding for a US Consulate to the Palestinians in Israel’s capital, we unequivocally oppose the Biden Administration’s decision and will use every tool at our disposal to stop it in the 117th Congress and afterwards.”

Led by Hagerty, 34 senators signed the joint statement. Led by Zeldin, 55 members of the House also signed it.

The senators who signed the statement include:
Thom Tillis (NC), Marco Rubio (FL), Bill Cassidy (LA), Ted Cruz (TX), Mike Lee (UT), John Hoeven (ND), Chuck Grassley (IA), Tim Scott (SC), Cindy Hyde-Smith (MS), Roger Marshall, M.D. (KS), John Cornyn (TX), Roger F. Wicker (MS), Steve Daines (MT), Josh Hawley (MO), John Barrasso (WY), Tom Cotton (AR), Rick Scott (FL), Mike Braun (IN), Kevin Cramer (ND), Deb Fischer (NE), Todd Young (IN), James Lankford (OK), Joni K. Ernst (IA), John Kennedy (LA), Ron Johnson (WI), Lindsey O. Graham (SC), Ben Sasse (NE), James M. Inhofe (OK), Tommy Tuberville (AL), Cynthia M. Lummis (R-WY), James Risch (R-ID), Mike Crapo (R-ID), and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN).

The congressmembers who signed the statement include:
David Kustoff (TN-08), Steve Scalise (LA-01), Elise Stefanik (NY-21), Robert Aderholt (AL-04), Rick W. Allen (GA-12), Brian Babin (TX-36), Troy Balderson (OH-12), Jim Banks (IN-03), Andy Barr (KY-06), Gus Bilirakis (FL-12), Mike Bost (IL-12), Ken Buck (CO-04), Ted Budd (NC-13), Madison Cawthorn (NC-11), Dan Crenshaw (TX-02), Mario Diaz-Balart (FL-25), Jeff Duncan (SC-03), Jake Ellzey (TX-06), Chuck Fleischmann (TN-03), Andrew Garbarino (NY-02), Mike Garcia (CA-25), Bob Good (VA-05), Garret Graves (LA-06), H. Morgan Griffith (VA-09), Glenn Grothman (WI-06), Michael Guest (MS-03), French Hill (AR-02), Bill Johnson (OH-06), Jim Jordan (OH-04), Young Kim (CA-39), Doug Lamborn (CO-05), Bob Latta (OH-05), Barry Loudermilk (GA-11), Nancy Mace (SC-01), Tom McClintock (CA-04), Mariannette Miller-Meeks (IA-02), Ralph Norman (SC-05), Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-05), John Rose (TN-06), Chip Roy (TX-21), Maria Elvira Salazar (FL-27), Adrian Smith (NE-03), Chris Smith (NJ-04), Jason Smith (MO-08), Michelle Steel (CA-48), Greg Steube (FL-17), Claudia Tenney (NY-22), Tom Tiffany (WI-07), David Valadao (CA-21), Jeff Van Drew (NJ-02), Ann Wagner (MO-02), Jackie Walorski (IN-02), Dan Webster (FL-11), and Steve Womack (AR-03).

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.