By Mark Ellis –
Relations between the Palestinian Authority (P.A.) and the Biden administration have changed dramatically compared to the previous administration — particularly the move to reopen the consulate for the Palestinians in Jerusalem.
“That’s an important way for our country to engage with and provide support for the Palestinian people,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced last May.
That statement was roundly condemned by Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett. “Our position is, and it was presented very clearly and openly to our American friends that there’s no room for another American consulate in Jerusalem,” Bennett said.
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid suggested the Palestinian Authority’s capital of Ramallah as an alternate location, but the Palestinians reacted sharply to the idea.
Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh expressed his frustration. “Ramallah is not Jerusalem and Ramallah is not the capital of Palestine. We want this consulate in Jerusalem to be the future American embassy to the State of Palestine. And I think that the Biden Administration has been very clear about it and they did speak loudly about it.”
“And it’s our hope that what they promised it will be fulfilled. And we have been assured by congressmen, by other officials that this will be on their agenda,” he added.
The disagreement puts the thorny issue of Jerusalem at the heart of the debate – as it has been for a generation.
Former Israeli Ambassador to U.S. Danny Ayalon says re-opening the U.S. consulate to the Palestinians would imperil relations with Israel and endanger the Jewish State’s tenuous new government, according to CBN.
“I think that could really wreak havoc within this government. There’s no way that politically that Bennett could agree to that. The opposition you know which is still headed by Bibi Netanyahu would have a hay day and that could really spark large, large demonstrations,” said Ayalon. “The anger and the frustration would not be channeled at the United States but to the Israeli government.”
The consulate impasse means the US has boxed everyone into a corner, with promises to the P.A. on the one hand and disrupting Israel’s sovereignty on the other.
The Palestinians love the new direction signaled by the Biden administration. “We think that this administration is a real departure from where we were with President Trump and that it’s our hope that the promises will be fulfilled,” The P.A. Prime Minister added.
Shtayyeh said those specific promises include restoring funding to the UN agency devoted to Palestinian refugees (UNRWA), opposing Israeli construction in the West Bank, and maintaining the status quo in Jerusalem on the Temple Mount, which only permits Muslims to pray at the holy site, revered by Jews, Christians and Muslims alike.
Professor Eugene Kontorovich says re-opening the consulate would be a big victory for the Palestinians. “It’s a sign to the Palestinians that America recognizes Palestinian claims to Jerusalem,” Kontorovich told CBN News. “Instead of recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, we’ll be putting a question mark on that.”
Kontorovich says the Biden administration won’t alter the decision by former President Donald Trump to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital because “it’s too bipartisan and popular.”
“What they’re trying to do is just partially reverse it or turn back the clock to how things were before America recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital,” he said
Kontorovich says Israel can legally stop the move, although the State Department is pressuring it to give in. He adds that while the US calls Israel a friend, he believes its actions indicate otherwise.
“There’s no other country where the United States tries to coerce them to have a diplomatic mission, a foreign entity, a hostile foreign entity in their capital,” Kontorovich.