The Palestinian Authority (PA) has recently received reports that the United States will resume operations at its consulate in eastern Jerusalem with the beginning of Joe Biden’s tenure, sources in Ramallah have told TPS.
The American consulate in eastern Jerusalem will operate as an independent unit under the embassy to primarily serve the Arab population and the Palestinian Authority, as it did before the American embassy was moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Currently, a Palestinian-affairs unit operates within the American embassy in Jerusalem.
In October 2018, the US announced the closure of the consulate and its absorption into the US Embassy as a section of the embassy, and this decision was implemented in March 2019.
A PA source says the current director of the unit, George Noll, has already begun preparations for the reopening of the consulate in eastern Jerusalem. The building is currently closed. Alaa Mahmoud, a political adviser at the embassy today, is expected to be appointed to a senior position at the consulate.
A few weeks ago and for the first time since relations between the Palestinian Authority and the US administration were severed, Noll visited Hebron and met with various Palestinian Authority Arab representatives and human rights activists.
Araf Jaber, one of the activists in Hebron, said that the meeting dealt with “difficulties and obstacles we face on the part of the occupation army and the settlers, as well as the issue of the Cave of the [Jewish] Patriarchs.”
Noll reportedly asked his hosts for videos documenting the events in which their rights were violated by the IDF and the Jewish residents of Hebron.
Jaber added that “it seems that Noll was influenced by what he heard here and he promised to pass a detailed report on the Hebron case.”
Imad Bashtawi, a political science professor at the University of Hebron who attended the meeting, said that “it may be the beginning of a phase of the restoring of Palestinian-American relations and the result of recent contacts between the Palestinian leadership and the Democratic Party.”
Bashtawi expressed hope that normal relations between the PA and the US would be restored soon, but a senior PA official said in an interview with TPS that the Palestinian Authority would have to pay a high price for the reopening the PLO embassy in Washington, which was closed by President Donald Trump .
Recently, the Palestinian Authority have expressed a willingness to refrain from signing additional international treaties in contravention of the Oslo Accords, and even claimed to reform their policy regarding the payment of wages to the families of terrorists, as a confidence-building measure vis-à-vis the US administration.
During the US election campaign, Kamala Harris, the vice president-elect, said that the Biden administration would take immediate steps to return economic aid to the PA and reopen the US consulate in Jerusalem as well as the PLO office in Washington.
An assistant to US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman told TPS that “the embassy serves only one president and therefore the matter should be referred to Joe Biden’s office.”
“We are working to bring peace to the region and if other parties intend to act differently, it is not in our interest” said the assistant, but did not confirm or deny the news.