Israel Has Ability to Block US From Reopening Consulate in Jerusalem for Palestinians, Official Says

© Wikimedia CommonsThe Consulate General of the United States in Jerusalem
The Consulate General of the United States in Jerusalem - Sputnik International, 1920, 29.10.2021
A senior US government official has confirmed that the US would have to get Israel’s consent before reopening a consulate in Jerusalem for Palestinians that was shuttered two years ago.
The revelation came during a Wednesday hearing by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee when Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-TN) asked Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources Brian McKeon about the protocols for opening a consulate in another country.
“Is it your understanding that, under US and international law, the government of Israel would have to provide its affirmative consent before the United States could open or reopen the US consulate to the Palestinians in Jerusalem, or does the Biden administration believe it can move forward to establish a second US mission in the Israeli capital city of Jerusalem without the consent of the government of Israel?” Hagerty asked.
“Senator, that’s my understanding – that we’d need to get the consent of the host government to open any diplomatic facility,” McKeon replied.
The Consulate General of the United States in Jerusalem was never explicitly for Palestinians and was created in 1844, long before Israel or the Palestinian National Authority was created. However, after the creation of Israel in 1948 and the opening a separate US embassy in Tel Aviv, the consulate provided such services for Palestinians who no longer had a state in which to do so.
After the Trump administration announced in 2018 it was moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in line with a 1995 act of Congress that was repeatedly waived by presidents before him unwilling to throw a hornet’s nest into a fragile peace process, the consulate was merged with the embassy.
Earlier this year, after US President Joe Biden took office and Israel fought an 11-day war with Hamas in the Gaza Strip, Biden revealed his intent to reopen the consulate alongside other services for the Palestinian population in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza, such as $75 million in development funds for the West Bank and $110 million for Gaza. Funding for the UN’s mission to Palesitnian refugees, UNRWA, was also restored after being severed by Trump, to the tune of $235 million.
© AFP 2023 / AHMAD GHARABLIThis picture taken on July 30, 2020 from the Mount of the Olives shows a view of an Israeli flag flying in Jerusalem with the Dome of the Rock seen in the background
This picture taken on July 30, 2020 from the Mount of the Olives shows a view of an Israeli flag flying in Jerusalem with the Dome of the Rock seen in the background - Sputnik International, 1920, 29.10.2021
This picture taken on July 30, 2020 from the Mount of the Olives shows a view of an Israeli flag flying in Jerusalem with the Dome of the Rock seen in the background
Hagerty suggested at the Wednesday hearing that the US reopening the consulate general would be a violation of the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995.
“President Biden’s proposal to open a second US mission in Jerusalem would begin to reverse the recognition of Jerusalem, and it would divide Israel’s eternal and undivided capital city,” Hagerty said.
However, McKeon corrected him, adding that “There’s no intention to move the US embassy from Jerusalem.”
When Britain’s Palestine Mandate was partitioned by the United Nations into Jewish and Palestinian states in 1947, Jerusalem was intended to be an international city controlled by neither country, but in the war against Jordan, Syria and Egypt that followed its declaration of independence the following year, Israel captured far more land than had been partitioned to it, including western Jerusalem. East Jerusalem was later captured from Jordan in the 1967 Six-Day War, and in 1981, it declared the city annexed and that it was the Israeli capital. The UN denounced the land seizures as violations of international law.
The Palestinian National Authority, formed after the 1994 Oslo Accords, governs from Ramallah in the West Bank, which is under Israeli control. However, the PNA has said that in any future Palestinian state - to which the Biden administration says it remains committed - the capital must be East Jerusalem. That position has been backed by the UN and European Union.
About 2.8 million Palestinians live in the West Bank, while another 327,000 live in East Jerusalem and another 2 million live in Gaza, which is not connected to the West Bank and has been under an Israeli blockade since Hamas won elections there in 2007.
After US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on October 13 that the administration was ready to “move forward with the process of opening a consulate as part of deepening of those ties with the Palestinians," the government of Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, which came to power after the May pledge to do so, made clear its rejection of the proposal.
Gideon Sa'ar, who heads the Israeli Ministry of Justice, which alongside the Foreign Ministry would have to sign off on the move, flatly told the Jerusalem Post there was “no way” that would happen.
“I want to make it very clear. We oppose it … we 100% oppose that. It needs Israeli approval, I don’t believe it will have Israeli approval,” he said. Noting that for Biden it had been an election commitment, Sa’ar said that “for us, it’s a generations commitment … and we will not compromise on this issue.”
Sa’ar noted that he and Bennett are “on the same page.”
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