Ned Price, the US State Department spokesman told reporters last Tuesday that, “We continue to believe it can be an important way for our country to engage with and provide support for the Palestinian people.” If that is to happen, the Biden Administration will be responsible for rewarding the Palestinians for their intransigence and terror, as well as undermining Israel’s sovereignty over a united Jerusalem.
The Israeli government of Naftali Bennett is very much against such a move by the United States. Israel contends that it would clearly undermine & erode Israel’s position in Jerusalem. As a candidate for the US presidency in 2020, Joe Biden made a campaign promise to reverse Donald Trump’s earlier decision in 2019 to close the Jerusalem consulate in eastern Jerusalem and move its operations to the newly established US embassy to Israel in Jerusalem. ,In an unprecedented action, President Trump moved the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Israel’s historical capital and the seat of the Israeli government., Jerusalem. After winning in the 2020 elections, Biden rushed to undo most of President Trump’s moves in the region, but nonetheless still resolved to keep the US embassy in Jerusalem.
Several US presidents, both Democrat and Republican, have promised during their election campaigns to relocate the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem; however, only one kept that promise, Donald Trump. Considering the significance of Jerusalem to Jews and Israelis everywhere, it was simply an inconceivable bias by past US administrations to single out Israel as virtually the only democratic state whose real capital (Jerusalem) was not recognized officially by its supposed allies and friends. Everyone else has kept their embassies in Tel Aviv.
Cognizant of an Israeli pushback against the Biden Administration’s decision to reopen a Jerusalem consulate, which was hitherto delayed, prompted Ned Price to say, ”There are a number of steps required for the reopening of any diplomatic facility.” A report in the Times of Israel suggests the Biden Administration has settled on a number of new steps aimed at boosting ties with the Palestinians in lieu of reopening the US consulate in Jerusalem.
As the Times of Israel reports, these steps include promoting Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Israel and Palestinian Affairs Hady Amr, to the role of Special Envoy to the Palestinians. Amr will be based in Washington but will make regular trips to the region to work closely with the Palestinian Affairs Unit (PAU), which is currently a section within the present US Jerusalem Embassy to Israel, but will now be housed in the old consulate building in eastern Jerusalem.
Late last year, 200 Republican members of Congress led by US Representative Lee Zeldin (R-NY), signed a letter addressed to the Biden Administration which rejected the their decision to reopen the Jerusalem consulate. The letter stated the consulate (closed by President Trump in 2019) is not compatible with US law by reaffirming Jerusalem as Israel’s only and undivided capital. The letter charged the Biden Administration would create a misguided situation in which the US would essentially have two separate, simultaneous diplomatic missions in Israel’s capital.
The Republican House members further argued the US Consulate General established in Jerusalem in 1844 was not originally intended to serve as an outreach to the Palestinians in Israel’s capital. They urged the Biden to respect America’s close ally Israel, and its opposition to the reopening of the consulate.
In November 2021 in a closed door meeting in Washington with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Israel’s Foreign Minister Yair Lapid reportedly warned Blinken that reopening the consulate in Jerusalem “could risk toppling the Israeli coalition government.” This came in response to Blinken’s statement in a joint press conference with Lapid earlier in Washington, that the Biden Administration intends to proceed with the consulate plan. Blinken stated, “As I said in May, we’ll be moving forward with the process of opening a consulate as part of our commitment to deepening ties with the Palestinian people.”
The Palestinian leadership in Ramallah angrily rejected the Trump peace deal titled Peace to Prosperity: A Vision to Improve the Lives of the Palestinian and Israeli People which was unveiled on January 28, 2020. Mahmud Abbas, chairman of the PA and his leadership, rejected the plan even before it was presented; and did so without suggesting any modifications or an alternative plan. Abbas was encouraged by some of the leading Democrat Party 2020 presidential candidates who denounced the Trump peace plan as a “smokescreen for annexation.”While several of the Democrat presidential candidates dismissed the Trump peace plan, the ambassadors of Bahrain, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates welcomed it. Other Arab states, including Egypt, Morocco, and Saudi Arabia also expressed their support for the Trump peace efforts by praising many of the plan’s elements.
The Trump peace plan preserved the boundaries of the two-state solution, while providing the Palestinians land from inside Israel’s June 4, 1967 territory to compensate for Israel’s absorbing the Israeli/Jewish settlement blocs in historical Judea and Samaria. Much like all previous refusals made by Palestinians, this was another rejection of an offer of peace by the Palestinians. Moreover, the PA, and Abbas himself continue to incite violence against Israel at every given opportunity by continuing to promote a policy of “pay to slay,” in which international humanitarian monetary aid given to the Palestinians is used as payments to the families of convicted Palestinian terrorists who murder Israelis.
While the Biden Administration has refrained from publicly specifying Jerusalem’s final status, their message is nevertheless a clear backtracking from the original Trump plan stipulating “Jerusalem will remain an undivided city and the sovereign capital of the State of Israel.” The Biden Administration is clearly seeking to erase Trump’s positive achievements in the region and once again reward the Palestinians at Israel’s expense by directly undermining Israel’s sovereignty over Jerusalem. It is puzzling why the Biden Administration would once again seek to divide Jerusalem into two separate diplomatic entities: A US embassy to Israel in Jerusalem, and a US consulate for Palestinians in eastern Jerusalem. If indeed the Palestinians merit a special US consulate, then why not open one in Ramallah? ✪