Palestinians, Israel spar over US mission in Jerusalem

AP , Sunday 7 Nov 2021

The Palestinians on Sunday slammed Israel for rejecting the promised reopening of the US consulate in Jerusalem, a move that would restore Washington's main diplomatic mission for the Palestinians in the contested city.

Jerusalem, Palestine
A flag of the United States flies outside the then US consulate building in Jerusalem, March 4, 2019. AP

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said late Saturday there was no room in Jerusalem for another American mission.

The Trump administration shuttered the U.S. 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 U.S. ties with the Palestinians ruptured under Trump.

In a statement, the Palestinian Foreign Ministry said it views the reopening of the consulate as part of the international community's commitments to ending Israel's decades-long occupation of territories the Palestinians seek for their future state.

'East Jerusalem is an inseparable part of the occupied Palestinian territory and is the capital of the state of Palestine. Israel, as the occupying power, does not have the right to veto the U.S. administration's decision', the statement said.

Asked about the consulate at a press conference, Bennett 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 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 U.S. 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 U.S. officials have implied that Israeli resistance to the move could act as a hindrance.

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