Israeli minister sees no compromise on U.S. Palestinian mission in Jerusalem

Reuters  /  October 12, 2021

JERUSALEM – Israel will remain opposed to Washington’s plan to reopen a U.S. consulate in Jerusalem that has traditionally been a base for diplomatic outreach to the Palestinians, even if political conditions change, an Israeli cabinet minister said on Tuesday.

The consulate was subsumed into the U.S. Embassy that was moved to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv in 2018 by then-U.S. president Donald Trump, steps hailed by Israel and condemned by Palestinians.

President Joe Biden wants to reopen the consulate to rebuild relations with the Palestinians, who seek parts of Jerusalem, as well as the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, for a hoped-for state.

“No way, no way,” Justice Minister Gideon Saar told a conference hosted by the Jerusalem Post newspaper when asked if the consulate reopening might go ahead – perhaps in the event of this or a future Israeli government yielding to U.S. pressure.

“It needs Israeli approval,” he added, speaking in English. “We will not compromise on this issue” for generations to come.

The U.S. Embassy had no immediate comment.

The issue is likely to come up during a visit to Washington on Tuesday by Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, a nationalist atop a cross-partisan coalition, opposes Palestinian statehood, and Lapid has said that reopening the consulate could unsettle the government. 

But Israeli media have speculated that Bennett could relent if Washington holds off until after his government secures more domestic stability by passing a long-delayed national budget, with ratification votes due next month.

Saar ruled out such a scenario, saying: “I want to make it very clear – we oppose it. We won’t oppose it now and … have a different opinion after the budget. We are 100% opposed to it.”

Writing by Dan Williams; editing by Alison Williams