US now considering two missions for Palestinians in Jerusalem – report

The old consulate in the western part of the city had a branch in the eastern section, and both may be reopened despite Israeli resistance.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

The Biden administration is thinking of opening two missions to the Palestinians in Jerusalem, not only one, according to an Israel Hayom report Thursday.

The main consulate would ostensibly be reopened where it was located from 2010-2019, on Agron Street in western Jerusalem. A branch of it, said the Hebrew daily, had operated in eastern Jerusalem on Nablus Road until 2010 and was then moved to the western part of the city. Now the Americans are contemplating its resurrection as well, back in the eastern section.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett had told President Joe Biden in their August meeting that he was completely opposed to the U.S. reopening its consulate, which had served as a direct conduit to the Palestinian Authority (PA). Former president Donald Trump had shut it down after moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem in 2018, folding all its services into the embassy.

Biden had made the consular reopening part of his election campaign’s theme of restoring ties to the PA. Last week, Secretary of State Antony Blinken told the press after meeting Foreign Minister Yair Lapid that the administration still planned to do so. Lapid denied telling Blinken that he had only asked for a delay until after the Israeli budget would be brought to the Knesset next month because he feared the right-wing part of the coalition would vote against it over the issue, causing the government to fall.

However, according to an Axios report Wednesday citing unnamed Israeli officials, while Blinken agreed to hold off on any announcement until after the budget passed, he suggested that in the meantime, he and Lapid should thrash out the details with only a few aides in on the discussions. The sources told the news site that Lapid had agreed to have these discrete deliberations, but only after the coalition was safe, with the budget in hand.

Like the right-wing Bennett, the centrist Lapid has publicly said that an American consulate in a city that already had embassy – unheard of in any other country in the world – was sending the “wrong message” to the Palestinians.

The danger this would create to the perception of sole Israeli sovereignty in its capital was encapsulated by PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh, who told the Al-Quds daily that by resurrecting its consulate, “the US administration is sending a message that Jerusalem is not a united Israeli city and that it does not recognize the annexation of Arab Jerusalem by the Israeli side.”

The Knesset passed the Jerusalem Law in 1980, which states that “Jerusalem, complete and united, is the capital of Israel.” Israel had liberated the eastern half of the city in 1967’s Six Day War.