Israeli PM Reportedly Proposed Biden Reopen Consulate in Palestinian Ramallah But US Refused
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett informed settler leaders at a meeting on 9 September that he pushed back against US President Joe Biden on reopening the American consulate in East Jerusalem, besides two other contentious issues, during his meeting at the White House in August.
Israel's PM Bennett
suggested to Biden that the American consulate should be reopened outside Jerusalem, reported The Times of Israel.
However, the proposal to opt for a venue on the outskirts of Ramallah or in the West Bank town of Abu Dis failed to elicit interest, states the outlet. The administration of former President Donald Trump – in its support for Israel's claim on Jerusalem as its capital – moved the US embassy there from Tel Aviv, subsequently subsuming the consulate into a Palestinian Affairs Unit.
However, in May the Biden administration announced plans to reopen the US consulate in Jerusalem to provide support for Palestinians living in the area. Tel Aviv reportedly blasted the idea, saying it could "destabilise" Bennett's new government.
Washington apparently agreed to postpone
reverting the Palestinian Affairs Unit back into a consulate to allow Bennett’s government to pass a budget by November.
Bennett’s predecessor Benjamin Netanyahu also reportedly proposed reopening the mission outside of Jerusalem.
‘New Chapter’ in Bilateral Relations
After taking office
in June, Bennett met with Biden on 26 August to discuss the Iranian nuclear programme and other issues as they touted a “new chapter” in bilateral relations. The US president has repeatedly insisted on a two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict as the only way to achieve peace in the region.
Bennett boasted to leaders from the Yesha Council settlements umbrella group during a meeting on 9 September that he disagreed with Biden
“three” times on key issues for Israel during the White House meeting, according to sources cited by Zman Yisrael, The Times of Israel’s Hebrew-language sister site.
The three topics were related to Israel building new settlements in the West Bank, reopening the US consulate in Jerusalem, and a possible revival of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
"Once on the Iranian issue – but I can’t tell you exactly about what – they requested something and I said 'no.' The second time was about the Palestinian consulate in Jerusalem, it won't happen. And the third time was about settlements," Bennett was cited as saying.
Likud MK Nir Barkat – the former mayor of Jerusalem – was in Washington, DC earlier, lobbying US lawmakers against reopening a diplomatic mission for Palestinians in Jerusalem.
“I am sharing with them my deep concern about the intention of the administration to open up a consulate. I am here to explain why it is a big mistake,” Barkat was cited as saying by The Times of Israel.
Barkat argued the decision would be seen as signalling legitimacy for the Palestinian claim to East Jerusalem. Under ex-POTUS Trump, in a flurry of moves to support Israel, Washington recognised the country’s claims to the Golan Heights, which it seized from Syria in the 1967 Six-Day War, and moved the US embassy
from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Israel seized the eastern half of the city in the same conflict, declaring it to be its capital.
The United Nations has long decried Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, as well as its colonisation of the West Bank. Israel has occupied the territory of the Gaza Strip since 1967, building numerous settlements for Jewish colonists and military outposts to defend them from Palestinians, many of whom have been evicted from their homes in order to make way for Jewish communities.