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US to Delay Reopening of Consulate Until Israeli Budget Approval

US to Delay Reopening of Consulate Until Israeli Budget Approval

Friday, 23 July, 2021 - 09:00
US Consulate in East Jerusalem (Asharq Al-Awsat)

The US has met the request of Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett to postpone the reopening of its consulate in East Jerusalem until after the approval of the budget in early November, Israeli media reported.

Multiple Israeli, US, and Palestinian sources confirmed that the move indicates the importance the Biden administration attaches to the success of the Israeli government’s mission.

The Israeli Hayom newspaper quoted a US official as saying that the Biden administration wants the Israeli coalition to survive and, as a result, isn't likely to challenge it or pose firm demands on it until it approves the national budget.

"Officials in the administration understand that passing the budget is the definitive test for the government's survival. So until then, they don't intend to take any move that could jeopardize it, the official said.

The US Consulate in East Jerusalem is a matter of "political" and "sovereign" conflict between the Palestinians and the Israelis.

For over twenty years, the mission was the diplomatic representation to the Palestinian Authority before former US President Donald Trump closed it in 2019 and moved the embassy to Tel Aviv, in defiance of the Palestinians and international law.

After President Joe Biden took office, the Palestinians demanded the reopening of the consulate in East Jerusalem. The Biden administration agreed, but the Israelis protested and demanded a delay amid mutual accusations.

Israeli opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu attacked Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, saying they had yielded to the Biden administration.

The opposition Likud party has launched a campaign to prevent the US administration from reopening the consulate.

Likud MK Nir Barkat has recently met with several Republican and Democratic members of Congress and senators in Washington within the framework of a public relations campaign to explain the dangers of reopening the consulate for the Palestinians in Jerusalem.

"Israel does not want Palestinian consulates in Jerusalem,” Barakat said.

Reports about postponing the consulate's reopening came after US State Department spokesman Ned Price said that the Biden administration is proceeding to reopen the US mission in Jerusalem to enhance relations with the Palestinians.

Price said in a daily briefing that "when it comes to the reopening of the US consulate, [US] Secretary [of State Antony] Blinken was clear on this when he visited Jerusalem and Ramallah earlier this year."

Blinken noted then that the US will be moving forward with the process to reopen "our consulate in Jerusalem and will do so as part of our effort to reestablish that partnership with the Palestinian people and the Palestinian Authority."

The Palestinians consider the reopening of the mission an essential indication of the US position on the political and legal dispute over the city.

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