Palestinians and Israel spar over US mission in Jerusalem

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Palestinians And Israel Spar Over Us Mission In Jerusalem Palestinians And Israel Spar Over Us Mission In Jerusalem
Naftali Bennett, © AP/Press Association Images
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By Tia Goldenberg, Associated Press

The Palestinians have condemned Israel for rejecting the promised reopening of the US consulate in Jerusalem, a move which would restore Washington’s main diplomatic mission for the Palestinians in the contested city.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said late on Saturday that there is no room in Jerusalem for another American mission.

The US’s Jerusalem consulate, which for years served as the de facto embassy to the Palestinians, was closed by the Trump administration.


Secretary of State Antony Blinken has pledged to reopen the US consulate in Jerusalem (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/Pool via AP)

Secretary of State Antony Blinken has pledged to reopen it, a move that Israel says would challenge its sovereignty over the city. The reopening could help mend US ties with the Palestinians which were ruptured under Donald Trump.

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In a statement, the Palestinian Foreign Ministry said it views the reopening of the consulate as part of the international community’s commitment to ending Israel’s decades-long occupation of territories the Palestinians seek for their future state.

“East Jerusalem is an inseparable part of the occupied Palestinian territory and is the capital of the state of Palestine. Israel, as the occupying power, does not have the right to veto the US administration’s decision,” the statement said.


Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, right, during a news conference with Foreign Minister Yair Lapid (Ohad Zwigenberg/Pool/AP)

Asked about the consulate at a press conference, Mr Bennett repeated Israel’s position on Jerusalem.

“There’s no room for another American consulate in Jerusalem,” he said. “Jerusalem is the capital of one state and that’s the state of Israel.”

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid suggested the consulate could instead be opened in the Palestinian administrative centre in Ramallah, West Bank. However, the Palestinians reject that idea because it would undermine their claims to Jerusalem.

Israel views Jerusalem as its eternal, undivided capital. The Palestinians seek the eastern part of the city, which Israel occupied in 1967 and later annexed, as capital of their hoped-for state.

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Israelis hold signs and flags during a protest against the possible reopening of the American consulate in Jerusalem (Sebastian Scheiner/AP)

The consulate is emerging as another test between Mr Bennett’s government and Joe Biden’s administration, which has moved to restore traditional US foreign policy towards Israel and the Palestinians after the Trump White House largely sided with Israel on issues related to the conflict.

Mr Trump had downgraded the consulate’s operations and placed them under his ambassador to Israel when he moved the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to the holy city in 2018. The embassy move infuriated the Palestinians and led them to sever most ties with the Trump administration.

Mr Blinken has not provided a firm date for the reopening and US officials have implied that Israeli resistance to the move could act as a hindrance.

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