Israel doubles down on US, claiming there is no room in Jerusalem for US consulate for Palestinians

“We will go ahead with the process of opening a consulate as part of deepening these ties with the Palestinians,” Blinken told the State Department.

Less than a month later, Israel’s political leadership was also clear: they have no intention of approving such a consulate (the host country must approve any new foreign consulate).

Asked by CNN at a press conference on Saturday night about US intentions, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said his government had presented its advice to Americans “clearly and openly.”

“There is no room for another US Consulate in Jerusalem. We always present our position quietly without drama and we wait for it to be understood. Jerusalem is the capital of a state and it is the state of ‘Israel,’ Bennett said, standing alongside the foreign minister. Yair Lapid and Minister of Finance Avigdor Liberman. “I am sure our American friends and we will continue to collaborate on a long list of great things.”

Lapid, who sat next to Blinken as he made the comments in Washington last month, echoed Bennett’s sentiments, adding that if the Americans want to open a consulate for Palestinians in Ramallah, they would be welcome.

“As for the (American) consulate, as we both said, it is not about politics and political stability. It is the State of Israel which in principle refuses a consulate to be opened. in Jerusalem, ”Lapid said.

Former President Donald Trump closed the consulate in 2019, merging it with the new US Embassy in Jerusalem after moving it from Tel Aviv when the United States recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. For many Palestinians, an American consulate in Jerusalem is a forerunner of what they hope will one day be an American embassy in East Jerusalem, the capital of a potential future State of Palestine.
Americans were seen to be largely on the sidelines of major confrontations with Israel over issues like the consulate or the expansion of Jewish settlements in the West Bank, as a way to help consolidate the stability of the coalition government. Coming from a diverse group of eight parties representing a wide range of ideologies, the government came to power in June by agreeing on few topics except a desire to oust former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after 12 years in power.

The adoption of a new state budget late last week – something that had not been accomplished since 2018 leading to a record four elections in Israel in two years – puts the government on much more ground. stable (because failing to do so before November 14 would have triggered new elections). Now, some global partners, including European diplomats like Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney, have made it clear that with the new government now looking more secure, it’s time to start pushing Israel harder on related issues. to the Palestinians.

“I think the EU and the US have been frankly cautious in terms of criticizing this new Israeli government because it is a fragile government,” Coveney told CNN’s Becky Anderson Thursday.

But with the budget passed and the Israeli government appearing ready, “both Washington and the European Union must now focus on their relationship with this new Israeli government, and make it very clear to them that if we are truly to bring peace to the process. together, well, then settlement expansion is not only illegal, but also unacceptable to the international community, ”he added.

Hussein Al Sheikh, Head of Civil Affairs of the Palestinian Authority, said in a tweet Sunday that Bennett’s statements about the consulate in Jerusalem represent a “challenge from the Israeli government to the #Biden administration”, given that he had “already announced on several occasions his decision to open the US consulate in Jerusalem- East !!!”

While the mantra of the new Israeli government in its relations with the United States has been “no drama”, especially regarding a possible return of the Iran nuclear deal, the Biden administration has openly criticized the Israeli government recently on issues related to the Palestinians. . A recent announcement by Israel to give the green light to thousands of new Israeli homes in the West Bank was criticized by the State Department, whose spokesman Ned Price called it “completely incompatible with efforts to to reduce tensions and ensure calm ”.

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Israel’s decision to label six Palestinian NGOs as terrorist organizations, accusing them of working with the designated terrorist group Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, also drew some scathing words from Europeans and Americans.

“We believe that respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms and a strong civil society are of crucial importance for responsible and responsive governance,” the State Department spokesman said at the time. , Ned Price.

But when asked on Saturday whether his government was heading for increased confrontation and tensions with the Americans, now that the budget had passed, Bennett simply replied, “No.”

“There are so many things we agree on with American friends that we don’t agree with,” the PM said, adding “I’m sure our American friends and we will continue to collaborate on a long list of great things “.

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