US must reopen Jerusalem consulate ahead of Biden’s visit, says Palestinian Authority

A plaque outside the former US consulate in Jerusalem (Reuters)

MEE Staff

Middle East Eye  /  June 14, 2022

PA official urges Biden administration to reopen the consulate and lift FTO listing of the Palestinian Liberation Organization.

The Palestinian Authority has called on the Biden administration to reopen the US Consulate in Jerusalem and fulfil its other promises to the Palestinians ahead of the president’s visit to the region next month.

A Palestinian Authority official told the Jerusalem Post that the other promises include removing the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) from Washington’s foreign terror organization (FTO) list.

The administration of US President Joe Biden has said it aims to reopen the consulate, which serves Palestinians and is opposed by several officials in Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s government.

Last week, the administration decided to upgrade ties with the Palestinians by changing the name of its mission from the Palestinian Affairs Unit (PAU) to the US Office of Palestinian Affairs (OPA). Prior to being called the PAU, it was the US consulate in Jerusalem.

The US consulate in East Jerusalem had served Palestinians for almost 175 years under several powers who controlled the holy city. It was shut down in March 2019 when Trump signaled support for Israel’s claim on Jerusalem as its capital.

The PA officials’ remarks come as a US State Department delegation visited Ramallah over the weekend. The delegation promised to relay the Palestinian demands to the White House, the official said.

The US declared the PLO a “terror group” in 1987, which prohibited it from opening offices in the country. However, successive US presidents had issued exemptions allowing the PLO to have an office in Washington until former US President Donald Trump closed their office in September 2018.

Confronting Israeli ‘escalation’

During talks with PA President Mahmoud Abbas, PLO secretary-general Hussein al-Sheikh and General Intelligence Service director Majed Faraj focused on ways of strengthening Palestinian-US relations and providing financial aid to the Palestinians, the Palestinian official said.

In the meeting with Abbas on Saturday, US officials discussed Washington’s relationship with Palestinian leadership, the country’s assistance to the Palestinians and deepening bilateral ties, according to a readout from the US State Department.

Abbas told US officials that PA leadership was in the process of taking measures to confront the Israeli “escalation”, according to the Palestinian Wafa news agency, including measures to “stop its criminal practices and its measures of ethnic cleansing and racial discrimination”.

The Palestinian president did not say what those measures would be. In the past, he threatened to suspend all ties with Israel.

Abbas also stressed the need to remove the PLO from the FTO list and reopen the US Consulate in Jerusalem and the PLO office in Washington.

The US delegation held another meeting with Sheikh and Faraj on Sunday evening as part of the preparations for Biden’s visit to the region.

The sides discussed the latest developments in the Palestinian territories, including Israeli “escalation and settler terrorism and their daily assaults against Al-Aqsa Mosque”.

Sheikh said he talked about the economic aspects and the need to resume aid to the PA, as well as unilateral measures that undermine the two-state solution and peace prospects.

“We need security, stability, an end to the occupation of our land and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state on the 1967 borders,” Sheikh said.