Israel proposes opening US consulate to Palestinians in West Bank, not Jerusalem By Reuters – News Couple

Israel proposes opening US consulate to Palestinians in West Bank, not Jerusalem By Reuters

© Reuters. Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett responds during a press conference with Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman (unseen) at the government press office in Jerusalem, November 6, 2021. Ohad Zwigenberg / Pool via REUTERS

By Dan Williams

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel on Saturday stepped up its public opposition to President Joe Biden’s administration’s plan to reopen a US consulate to the Palestinians in Jerusalem, suggesting that such a mission should be in the occupied West Bank.

Under former President Donald Trump, Washington delighted the Israelis and angered the Palestinians by closing the consulate in Jerusalem and placing its staff inside the US Embassy to Israel, which was moved to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv in 2018.

The Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state and saw the US initiative to move its embassy undermining this aspiration. Israel, which occupied East Jerusalem in 1967, describes Jerusalem as its indivisible capital.

Seeking to mend relations with the Palestinians, the Biden administration said it would reopen the consulate, although it did not specify a date.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett told reporters, “My position, which has been presented to the Americans… is that there is no place for an American consulate serving the Palestinians in Jerusalem. We express our opinion consistently, calmly and without drama.” .

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, speaking alongside Bennett, suggested reopening the consulate in the de facto seat of the Palestinian government in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank.

“If they (the United States) want to open a consulate in Ramallah, we have no problem with that,” he said.

In Ramallah, the spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas rejected Lapid’s statements.

“We will only accept an American consulate in Jerusalem, the capital of the Palestinian state,” Nabil Abu Rudeineh told Reuters. “This is what the American administration has announced and has committed to.”

US embassy spokesmen did not immediately comment.

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said last month that Washington would “move forward with the process of opening a consulate as part of deepening those ties with the Palestinians,” though one of his senior staff also said Israel’s rejection of the plan was an obstacle.

“My understanding is that we need the consent of the host government to open any diplomatic facility,” Deputy Secretary of State for Administration and Resources Brian McKeown said during a US Senate hearing when asked about the standoff at the consulate.

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