No room for US mission for Palestinians in Jerusalem

AP , Sunday 7 Nov 2021

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett rejected the promised reopening of the main US diplomatic mission for the Palestinians in Jerusalem, saying there was no room in the contested city for such an office.

Naftali Bennett
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett holds a news conference at the Government Press Office in, Jerusalem, Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021. AP

The Trump administration shuttered the US Jerusalem consulate, an office that for years served as the de facto embassy to the Palestinians. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has pledged to reopen it, a move that Israel says would challenge its sovereignty over the city. The reopening could help mend US ties with the Palestinians ruptured under Trump.

Asked about the consulate at a press conference, Bennett late Saturday repeated Israel's position on Jerusalem.

``There's no room for another American consulate in Jerusalem,'' he said. ``Jerusalem is the capital of one state and that's the state of Israel.'' Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid suggested the consulate could instead be opened in the Palestinian administrative center in Ramallah, West Bank. The Palestinians would reject the idea because it would undermine their claims to Jerusalem.

Israel views Jerusalem as its eternal, undivided capital. The Palestinians seek the eastern part of the city, which Israel occupied in 1967 and later annexed, as capital of their hoped-for state.

The consulate is emerging as another test between Bennett's government and the Biden administration, which has moved to restore traditional U.S. foreign policy toward Israel and the Palestinians after the Trump White House largely sided with Israel on issues related to the conflict.

Trump had downgraded the consulate's operations and placed them under his ambassador to Israel when he moved the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to the holy city in 2018. The embassy move infuriated the Palestinians and led them to sever most ties with the Trump administration.

Blinken has not provided a firm date for the reopening and US officials have implied that Israeli resistance to the move could act as a hindrance.

Palestinian official Wassel abu Yussef said Bennett's rejection entrenched Israel's ``policy of occupation'' and that it presented a challenge to the Biden administration to follow through on its promise.

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