Israel must stand firm against reopening of US consulate – editorial

The government headed by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett had so far postponed a series of important political decisions, waiting until the national budget was approved. This is understandable: It took every vote in the eclectic coalition for that budget to pass through the Knesset, to avoid an automatic dispersal of parliament and a return to another national election. But the next morning has come. The budget is approved and decisions must be made.

One of the sensitive items on the agenda is President Joe Biden’s desire to reverse the action of his predecessor, Donald Trump, and reopen a US consulate general in Jerusalem to serve the Palestinians. Lapid reportedly asked the State Department to wait until after the budget was approved, to allow the government a chance to stabilize.

The budget was approved on Friday, and on Saturday night, Bennett and Lapid stressed that they oppose the reopening of the consulate, which was closed in 2019 following the move of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

“My position, which I have presented to the Americans by myself and by Foreign Minister Lapid, is that there is no place for an American consulate serving the Palestinians in Jerusalem,” Bennett told reporters. “We have expressed our position [to the US] with determination, calm, without drama, and I hope it is understood. Jerusalem is only the capital of Israel. “

Lapid stressed that the principle at stake is Jerusalem’s status as Israel’s capital, and not the question of a consulate for the Palestinians, which he said the United States could open in Ramallah. Former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (who seeks any government hesitation to help weaken it) would also have suggested that the United States could open a consulate for Palestinians in Ramallah or Abu Dis, a neighborhood adjacent to Jerusalem, where the Palestinians were once scheduled. for parliament to stand up.

A man places a Palestinian flag on a fence surrounding the US consulate during a demonstration in support of the candidacy of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for recognition of statehood at the United Nations, in Arab East Jerusalem on September 21, 2011 (credit: REUTERS / Ronen Zvulun)

The consulate had previously acted as a de facto embassy to the Palestinian Authority, even though it was located in an area in west Jerusalem that has never been in dispute or in dispute as possibly being under Palestinian control in any kind of process of diplomatic peace.

Bennett downplayed the importance of Israeli opposition to US plans to reopen the consulate general, saying: “There is much more we agree on with our American friends than we disagree on.” But the same could not be said for relations within his own government, including the parties of the left and right.

The issue of the consulate is linked to another thorny issue: construction on the Green Line. Here, too, the Biden administration opposes the construction plans, while some parts of the Bennett government want to continue major settlement projects in the West Bank.

There is a broad consensus within Israel that reopening the consulate in Jerusalem is not only unnecessary but harmful. In fact, a consulate in Jerusalem would undermine the quest for peace by giving the Palestinians a false hope that they will one day be in control of the city. Reopening the consulate, particularly now that the US embassy is located in Jerusalem, would call into question Israel’s sovereignty in its own capital and possibly encourage other countries to follow suit. Instead of opening embassies to Israel in Jerusalem, there could be a movement to open consulates and trade representations for Palestinians in the Israeli capital.

The Bennett-Lapid coalition is eager to mend ties with the Democrats after the Trump and Netanyahu eras, but both the prime minister and the deputy prime minister must stand firm in Israel’s interests. The reopening of the consulate for the Palestinians in Jerusalem directly damages Israel’s interests and would not help a future peace process. Getting a consulate in West Jerusalem in exchange for nothing more than intransigence will not encourage the Palestinians to return to the negotiating table in good faith.

Israel must continue to stand firm in its opposition to the reopening of the US consulate in Jerusalem. As for building on the Green Line: it is time for the government itself to decide what it wants, where its red lines are, rather than letting outside forces determine it.

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