The planned reopening of a US Consulate for Arabs only in Jerusalem has been delayed, according to a report by the Hebrew-language Walla! News site.
The news comes in the wake of a report by the Al Quds Palestinian Authority news outlet that the American Consulate in Jerusalem is to reopen this coming September on Agron Street – its former location – which currently serves as the US Ambassador’s Residence.
The administration of US President Joe Biden has agreed to postpone the opening of the Consulate – which in the past operated as a de facto mission to Arabs in Jerusalem and the Palestinian Authority – at the request of the State of Israel.
The decision came in response to requests from the office of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Israel’s Foreign Ministry, according to the report, published in English by Ynet.
The postponement reportedly is to last at least until the government passes a budget.
According to the report, an unnamed high-ranking Israeli source claimed that Bennett is altogether opposed to reopening the Consulate with the argument that reopening a separate Consulate in the same city for a different population is tantamount to disregarding the 2017 US recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
The source also clarified that such a decision is not intended to take a position on the borders of Jerusalem, where post-1967 areas of the city were annexed to the State of Israel shortly after the Six Day War.
The Palestinian Authority continues, however, to claim those post-1967 sections of Jerusalem as the capital of its future state, assuming that all the obstacles to that goal are finally overcome.
Among those is the continued existence of two entirely separate governments with no coordination, each insisting on its legitimacy. The government led by PA leader Mahmoud Abbas rules the PA-controlled sections of Judea and Samaria. The government in Gaza City is led by the Hamas terrorist organization and rules the Gaza enclave.
“We are talking about the unification of Jerusalem,” former Jerusalem mayor and Likud Knesset member Nir Barkat told Israel’s Channel 12 News.
Barkat flew to the United States last week to submit a bill that would prevent the US from reopening the Consulate. One day earlier, he proposed a bill to amend Basic Law: Jerusalem Capital of Israel to make it illegal for the Israeli government to allow a diplomatic mission serving a foreign entity in Jerusalem.
“As is practiced in the world and international law, including and especially the Vienna Consular Convention, no sovereign state allows a foreign country to open a diplomatic mission on its territory that is meant to serve residents of a third state or entity, certainly not to a hostile entity,” the bill reads in part.
A former businessperson with considerable wealth, Barkat personally paid his own travel expenses for the trip. He met with members of both houses of Congress and officials in New York and Washington DC in his effort to fight the reopening of the Consulate in the Israeli capital.
The Likud MK argued that opening a US Consulate on Israeli territory to the Palestinian Authority – a foreign entity – undermines Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem and works to divide the capital. He added that current European missions to Palestinian Authority Arabs and other Arab residents in the city – including those of the Vatican, Sweden, Italy and France – were created well before the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948.
“As Secretary [of State Antony] Blinken said when he was here and many other US officials have said since then, we are moving forward with the process to reopen our Consulate General in Jerusalem,” the US Embassy in Israel said in a statement reported by The Jerusalem Post. “We are in the process of determining when and where to open it. We cannot give you a timeline on how long that will take.”
During the administration of former US President Donald Trump, the Consulate was deemed redundant and was closed; the Arab population was served by the US Embassy in Jerusalem together with all other residents of Israel, as takes place in many other areas of the world.
Permission from Israel’s Foreign Minister Yair Lapid is required to re-establish a mission to the Palestinian Authority in Jerusalem.