10 reasons not to reopen the US consulate in Jerusalem

With Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett set to meet with U.S. President Joe Biden tomorrow, it is critical to discuss the American intention to reopen a consulate in Jerusalem that will serve only Arabs, and undermine Israel's sovereignty in its capital city.

Palestinians protest outside the U.S. Consulate in eastern Jerusalem against President Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital. Dec. 7, 2017. Photo by Sliman Khader/Flash90.
Palestinians protest outside the U.S. Consulate in eastern Jerusalem against President Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital. Dec. 7, 2017. Photo by Sliman Khader/Flash90.
Chaim Silberstein and Hillel Fendel

Three months ago, when U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Israel and the Palestinian Authority, he declared that the Biden administration would reopen its consulate in Jerusalem. Until it was closed in 2019 by the Trump administration, following the opening of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, the consulate had served as a de facto embassy for Arabs of the P.A.

Bennett must make it clear that Israel will absolutely not accept the decision to reopen the consulate, and here are 10 good reasons why:

1. It undermines already-beleaguered Israeli sovereignty.

Based on past experience, we know that a new consulate will serve as a de facto embassy for Arabs of the P.A. and even of Jerusalem, and this essentially undermines Israeli sovereignty in its capital.

“The act of establishing a Palestinian consulate in Jerusalem means recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine. [This is] a dangerous decision … a red line that cannot be crossed,” said former Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, echoing the sentiment of most of the Knesset, both opposition and coalition members.

Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Aryeh King called the initiative “a spiteful move that seeks to undermine Israel’s absolute sovereignty over Jerusalem”—sovereignty that continues to be under fire from those who wish to see Jerusalem become the capital of a new Arab state.

2. It distances peace.

Opening a consulate in Jerusalem for the P.A. will raise the authority’s standing in Washington, thus encouraging it not to make concessions and perpetuating the state of non-peace or worse.

3. The embassy obviates the need for a consulate.

There is no need to reopen the consulate, as all consular services are already provided by the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem. As The Hill explained, “There is no case in the entire world where a [U.S.] consulate general exists in the same city as a U.S. embassy.”

In 2019, some months after the embassy was opened in Jerusalem, all American diplomatic activity was logically and efficiently consolidated into a single mission—and no other one is needed.

4. It violates international law.

The Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961, which defines a framework for diplomatic relations between independent countries, stipulates that the “guest state may not, without the prior express consent of the receiving state, establish offices forming part of the mission in localities other than those in which the mission itself is established.”

5. It violates Israeli law.

Israel’s Basic Law: Jerusalem, the Capital of Israel (1980) stipulates that “Jerusalem, complete and united, is the capital of Israel.” Opening a diplomatic mission in the city on behalf of a foreign entity is thus apparently illegal, as it establishes Jerusalem as the capital of a country other than Israel.

6. It violates American law.

The Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995, passed overwhelmingly by the U.S. House and Senate, recognizes a united Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and states that “Jerusalem should remain an undivided city.”

7. It is a perpetual cause of friction.

America’s Jerusalem consulate has for decades been “a perpetual cause of friction with the U.S. Embassy to Israel and … a hotbed for some anti-Israel ideologues,” explained former U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman to journalist Michael Ireland. To this, one can add that the consulate has in the past worked closely with “Arabists” in the State Department, who are openly hostile to Israel.

8. Ramallah should house a consulate, not Jerusalem.

Even if the United States decides that it needs a consulate for P.A. Arabs, it should be in Ramallah, where the P.A. is entirely based. As Jeff Ballabon of the American Center for Law and Justice has written, “The PA has no presence in Jerusalem and has never been located there.”

9. It is a beachhead for a hostile terrorist government.

Ballabon also wrote: “It is troubling enough that Biden would re-engage with the terror-supporting P.A. and send it money (also likely a violation of U.S. law); but to establish a beachhead for a hostile terrorist pseudo-government in the center of a sovereign state’s capital? To promote the P.A. while it continues publicly to pay terrorists and promote the eradication of all Israel?”

10. It sends a discriminatory signal.

For the United States to open a consulate in Jerusalem just for Arabs “delivers a dangerous and ambiguous signal that this administration may well support a divided Jerusalem,” writes former Deputy National Security Advisor Elliott Abrams. “The fact that the United States is even considering such a move is another unfortunate example of Israel being held to a different and discriminatory standard by the international community. Other nations, including the United States, would not allow a foreign country to divide their capitals or open consulates therein serving a third party or foreign entity …

“The United States should respect Israel’s choice of Jerusalem as its capital and not make it the only place on earth where the United States places both its embassy and a permanent mission to a foreign entity in the capital of a sovereign state. That is precisely the kind of damaging and discriminatory treatment of Israel that Democrats and Republicans in Congress have long pledged to avoid and indeed to condemn.”

Chaim Silberstein is president of Keep Jerusalem-Im Eshkachech and the Jerusalem Capital Development Fund. He was formerly a senior adviser to Israel’s minister of tourism. 

Hillel Fendel, past senior editor at Israel National News/Arutz 7, is a veteran writer on Jerusalem affairs.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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