US will move forward with plan to reopen Jerusalem consulate, says Blinken

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (Reuters)

MEE Staff

Middle East Eye  /  October 13, 2021

President Joe Biden has pledged to restore US ties with the Palestinians, who were downgraded by former President Donald Trump.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced on Wednesday that Washington will be moving forward with its plan of reopening its consulate in Jerusalem – a move that restores ties with the Palestinians, as they had been downgraded by the Trump administration.

The consulate, which served Palestinians in East Jerusalem, the occupied West Bank and besieged Gaza Strip, was shut down in March 2019 when Trump signalled support for Israel’s claim on Jerusalem as its capital.

“We’ll be moving forward with the process of opening a consulate as part of deepening of those ties with the Palestinians,” Blinken said at the State Department.

Blinken spoke to the press after hosting a trilateral meeting with Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Emirati Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed al-Nahyan.

The UAE and Bahrain normalized relations with Israel last September during the final months of the Trump administration. Not long after, Morocco and Sudan followed suit.

Several Israeli officials in Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s government have opposed the US plan.

On Wednesday, Israel’s Justice Minister Gideon Saar said there was “no way” Israel would agree to have the US reopen its consulate in Jerusalem, according to a report by The Washington Post.

“I spoke with [Bennett] a couple of times on the issue. We are on the same page, and we don’t see differently,” Saar added. “Someone said it’s an electoral commitment. But for us, it’s a generation’s commitment. We will not compromise on this.”

In May, Blinken announced the US was planning to reopen the consulate in East Jerusalem, reiterating US President Joe Biden’s position during his election campaign in 2020.

Biden said he would keep the US embassy in Jerusalem, which was moved from Tel Aviv during Trump’s tenure in 2018, and would reopen the consulate in East Jerusalem, “to engage the Palestinians”.

Both the Israeli and Palestinian leadership have long claimed Jerusalem as their capital, an issue neither side has been willing to concede. 

Israel deems all of Jerusalem its undivided capital – a status not recognized internationally.

It captured the city’s east, along with the West Bank and Gaza, in the 1967 Middle East war and has occupied the territories ever since.

The idea of dividing the city, with the Palestinians controlling East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state while relinquishing West Jerusalem to Israel, has long been a leading solution. 

Biden has said the two-state solution is the only way to solve the issue. However, during his speech at the United Nations General Assembly, he noted that “we are a long way from that goal at this moment”.

Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Gilad Erdan, echoed that message earlier this month, saying the “[two-state] option is not on the table, so we’re focused on what unites us rather than what divides us”.