Reaffirming Israeli sovereignty, Colombia announces opening of new office in Jerusalem

The diplomatically accredited office will be inaugurated during President Ivan Duque’s visit to Israel that starts Sunday.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Colombian President Ivan Duque will open his country’s first diplomatically accredited office in Jerusalem Tuesday, crowning his first visit to Israel that began on Sunday.

Called Innpulsa, the South American country’s entrepreneurship and innovation agency will encourage bilateral trade that received a shot in the arm last year, when Bogota finally ratified a free-trade agreement with Israel that had originally been signed in 2013.

It is the first time Colombia is establishing such a center overseas. In this, the country is following the pattern of the Czech Republic and Hungary, which opened offices in the same spheres in recent years in the capital that are also attached to their embassies.

The move is considered a recognition of sorts of Israel’s sovereignty over Jerusalem. It is a welcome symbol during the current spat between the American and Bennett administrations over President Joe Biden’s determination to reopen the U.S. consulate in the western part of the city to be an independent conduit to the Palestinians.

The consulate had been closed and its duties subsumed under the American embassy’s auspices after former president Donald Trump had moved the country’s representation to Jerusalem in May 2018.

In a press conference Saturday night, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Alternate Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid made it clear that they were on the same page regarding their opposition to the American desire.

“There is no room for an American consulate that serves the Palestinians in Jerusalem,” Bennett said. “We are expressing our stand consistently, quietly, without drama, and I hope that it will be understood. Jerusalem is the capital only of the State of Israel.”

“If the Americans want to open a consulate in Ramallah, we have no problem with that,” said Lapid, adding, “Sovereignty in Jerusalem belongs to one country – the State of Israel. It’s not a matter of politics. It’s a principled opposition to the opening of a consulate in Jerusalem. There [already] is an American embassy.”

There is no city in the world that contains both a consulate and embassy simultaneously representing a country’s interests. According to international law, a country cannot open another diplomatic representation without its host’s permission, which a top American official openly acknowledged late last month.

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There had been reports (that Lapid had denied) that the foreign minister had told his American counterpart that the issue could be discussed, but only after the Israeli budget had been approved. Knowing that such a move would anger the right wing of the coalition, Lapid was reportedly afraid that at least a few of the MKs would refuse to support the budget, and this would lead to the government’s downfall.

The story went that the Americans had agreed to wait, and the budget passed at the end of last week. The press conference was designed to show that the current and future Israeli heads of state are united in their rejection of the plan.

When Duque was first elected three years ago, he had said that his government would look carefully into the idea of moving the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in order to strengthen ties with Israel. He made his remarks on the day Guatemala had moved its embassy to the Israeli capital, shortly after the Americans had completed their relocation.

So far, only Honduras and Kosovo have followed those leads in exchanging the Tel Aviv addresses of their embassies for Jerusalem.

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Trade and innovation will be a major topic during Duque’s trip, in a wide range of areas. His 95-person delegation includes his ministers of agriculture, defense, environmental protection, health, trade and transportation, as well as businessmen and members of the Colombian Jewish community.