The Jerusalem consulate is a de facto embassy for the Palestinians: opinion

Recently, the US administration affirmed its plans to fulfill then-presidential candidate Joe Biden’s campaign promise to open a consulate in Jerusalem that will serve only the Palestinian population. The stated purpose of such a move is “to deepen … ties with the Palestinians.” The subtext is clear: the consulate would serve as a de facto embassy for the Palestinians.

Israel, of course, is not opposed to the United States improving its ties with the Palestinians by helping them financially and providing them with consular services. All of these functions are already carried out today at the US Embassy, ​​which moved to Jerusalem in 2018. If the US administration wanted to open a new diplomatic mission to the Palestinian Authority, the logical location would be in Ramallah, the royal seat of the Palestinian Government.

So why does the administration insist on opening a Palestinian consulate in Jerusalem, Israel’s recognized capital? After all, there is no precedent in the world for the United States to open two diplomatic missions serving two different peoples in the same city, and certainly not to an entity that remains openly hostile to the host country. The consequences of such action would rekindle Palestinian hopes of dividing Jerusalem, Israel’s capital since the time of King David, and allow the Palestinians to claim it as their own.

Legally, opening the consulate would violate US and international law. According to the United States’ 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Act, “Jerusalem must remain an undivided city” and “be recognized as the capital of the State of Israel.” The law passed with overwhelming bipartisan support. In fact, then-Senator Biden was its first co-sponsor. And according to international law and custom, the host state, in this case Israel, must give its consent and approval for a foreign consulate to be established there.

Legal considerations aside, such a move could have dire ramifications that extend far beyond the procedure. It will damage the position of America’s staunchest ally in the region while rewarding the Palestinian Authority’s continued intransigence and its refusal to negotiate peace with Israel. Giving radical Islamists a foothold in the heart of Jerusalem would only incentivize them to continue terrorizing Israeli citizens. That message is sure to reverberate throughout the Middle East, from Iran to ISIS and from Hezbollah to Hamas.

Hamas supporters wearing veils and gloves take part in a demonstration against Israel in Jenin. (credit: MOHAMAD TOROKMAN / REUTERS)

In the wake of the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan, America’s allies and enemies are watching closely to see how committed America is to its friends around the world. Keeping Jerusalem undivided as the eternal capital of Israel and the Jewish people is enshrined in American law and enjoys multi-party consensus in Israel. An American initiative to divide our capital will not be well received by our citizens.

Despite the best intentions of the US administration, such a move will not bring Israelis and Palestinians closer to reconciliation. If anything, as we learned from the Abraham Accords that brought Israel peace with four Arab countries, only a strong alliance between the United States and Israel can convince Arab regimes to move in the direction of coexistence and open ties.

That is why a large majority of Israelis and members of the Knesset of all parties oppose the opening of a Palestinian consulate in Jerusalem. In fact, I introduced legislation over the summer that would prohibit our government from opening a Palestinian consulate in Jerusalem. Politically, Israel’s faltering coalition government would not survive a challenge to a unified Jerusalem. In other words, the United States will not receive the consent of this Knesset. If he goes ahead with the plans, he will do so unilaterally.

The Israelis are fully aware and legitimately skeptical of allowing the Palestinians to take hold in Jerusalem. We have seen in recent history that opening the door to territorial compromise to the Palestinians has not resulted in peace, but rather in war. In 2005, Israel made the painful but bold decision to evacuate all of its citizens from Gaza. Optimists envisioned the possibility of a “Singapore in the Mediterranean”, with a flourishing economy and peaceful relations rooted in trade. Israel even agreed to leave intact its world-class greenhouses and farms that flourished throughout the Strip.

Tragically, the Palestinians destroyed these agricultural facilities within 24 hours of Israel’s “Separation” from Gaza, where Hamas terrorists quickly assumed government functions. Israel has been forced to fight three wars in the past 16 years to stop missile attacks and cross-border infiltrations targeting our schools, hospitals and communities.

For our survival, we can never allow radical Islamists to take hold in Jerusalem.

Jerusalem is not just another city in the world. Jerusalem has been the center of Jewish life for generations, and Jews around the world look to the direction of our holiest city when they pray. Today, Jews, Muslims and Christians have helped transform Jerusalem into a vibrant city with strong high-tech and life science industries and one of the most sought-after tourist destinations in the world. It is not just our story. It is our present and our future.

The writer is a member of the Knesset and previously served as mayor of Jerusalem.

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