Israel opposes Biden plan to reopen Palestinian mission in Jerusalem

Published September 2, 2021
In this June 27, 2021 file photo, Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid meets with Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Rome. — AP/File
In this June 27, 2021 file photo, Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid meets with Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Rome. — AP/File

JERUSALEM: Israel said on Wednesday that a US plan to reopen its consulate in Jerusalem that has traditionally been a base for diplomatic outreach to Palestinians is a “bad idea” and could destabilise Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s new government.

The prior administration of President Donald Trump signalled support for Israel’s claim on Jerusalem as its capital by moving the US embassy there from Tel Aviv and subsuming the consulate in that mission.

It was among several moves that incensed the Palestinians, who want East Jerusalem as capital of a hoped-for, future state.

President Joe Biden has pledged to restore ties with the Palestinians, back a two-state solution and move forward with reopening the consulate. It has been closed since 2019, with Palestinian affairs handled by the embassy.

“We think it’s a bad idea,” Foreign Minister Yair Lapid told a news conference when asked about the reopening. “Jerusalem is the sovereign capital of Israel and Israel alone, and therefore we don’t think it’s a good idea.

“We know that the (Biden) administration has a different way of looking at this, but since it is happening in Israel, we are sure they are listening to us very carefully.” Wasel Abu Youssef, a senior Palestine Liberation Organisation official, said that the Israeli rejection of the consulate’s opening was expected, adding: “They are trying to maintain the status quo and block any political solution”.

The US embassy had no immediate comment. Israel deems all of Jerusalem its undivided capital — a status not recognised internationally.

It captured the city’s east, along with the occupied West Bank and Gaza, in the 1967 Middle East war. Bennett, a nationalist atop a cross-partisan coalition, opposes Palestinian statehood.

Published in Dawn, September 2nd, 2021

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