Report: Biden Backs Off Palestinian Consulate in Jerusalem
President Joe Biden is reportedly backing down from plans to open a U.S. consulate in Jerusalem dealing specifically with Palestinians, after ruling into objections from Israel, obstacles in international law, and concerns about Iran nuclear talks.
As Breitbart News noted last year, Biden had promised during the 2020 campaign to reopen a consulate in “East Jerusalem,” though the site he was referring to was in western Jerusalem, across from the city’s Independence Park. The building had once served as the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem before President Donald Trump moved the U.S. embassy to the city, located in an existing building in southern Jerusalem, whereupon the consulate was converted into an annex of the U.S. embassy.
Biden’s promise was a concession to pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel activists in the Democratic Party, because the consulate had long been seen as biased toward the Palestinians, and was regarded by U.S. anti-Israel activists as a local stronghold.
Moreover, some Democrats wanted Biden to undo the embassy move, simply because Trump had done it. Not one Democrat attended the opening of the embassy in 2018, though support for a Jerusalem embassy had been a bipartisan cause for years.
However, as Breitbart News reported earlier this year, the Israeli government objected to the opening of a consulate in its capital city aimed specifically at dealing with Palestinians, because it would amount to a diplomatic division of Jerusalem.
Under international law, including the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, to which both the U.S. and Israel are parties, a country cannot open a diplomatic mission on another country’s territory without the consent of its government.
The Biden administration resolved to press ahead anyway, but the Israeli government that replaced former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu was adamantly opposed to the new consulate, despite early indications that it might accept one.
Now, the Times of Israel reports, the Biden administration has shelved the idea — partly out of concern that a consulate would aggravate relations with the Israeli government, which is already upset about U.S. efforts to return to the Iran deal:
A US diplomat, a former senior US official and another source familiar with the matter told The Times of Israel this week that the Biden administration has effectively shelved its effort to resurrect the de facto mission to the Palestinians shuttered by former president Donald Trump in 2019.
No final decision has been made, and the official State Department line remains that the Biden administration “will move forward with the process of reopening the consulate in Jerusalem,” but the three sources confirmed that no such process has begun. Moreover, even the administration’s more ardent advocates of reopening the consulate have shifted their focus to policies more likely to impact day-to-day life for Palestinians, the former senior US official said.
The apparent about-face follows significant pushback from Israel, which would have to sign off on the move. And as Israel is already gearing up for a fight with the Biden administration over the latter’s insistence on exhausting the diplomatic route in Vienna to revive the Iran nuclear deal, the US is not looking to open up a second front by moving forward with the consulate reopening at the moment, the source familiar with the matter said.
The Biden administration has reversed one aspect of Trump’s policy, the Times of Israel noted: officials dealing with the Palestinians will report directly to State Department headquarters in Washington, rather than embassy personnel in Israel.
Israeli leaders suggested that they might accept a U.S. diplomatic mission in Ramallah, the city that houses the Palestinian Authority administration. Several countries have opened “embassies” to “Palestine” there, though it is not yet a country.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He is the author of the recent e-book, Neither Free nor Fair: The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. His recent book, RED NOVEMBER, tells the story of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary from a conservative perspective. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.