The Trump administration shut down the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem, which served as the de facto embassy to Palestine according to Al Jazeera. This move came in tandem with the U.S. embassy move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which subsequently limited the former consulate’s operations and placed it under the purview of the Israeli ambassador. While current Secretary of State Anthony Blinken has promised to reopen this consulate in order to repair relations with Palestine, Israeli officials have repeatedly rejected the proposition, fearing this would cause Israel to lose control of their capital.
In their statement to Al Jazeera, the Palestinian Foreign Ministry said “East Jerusalem is an inseparable part of the occupied political territory and is the capital of the state of Palestine. Israel as the occupying power does not have the right to veto, the U.S. administration’s decision.” The reopening of the consulate is largely seen by Palestinians as a duty owed to them by the international community, as the site of the consulate is also hoped to be the site of the capital of a future Palestinian state.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett told Reuters reporters over the weekend, “there is no place for a U.S. consulate which serves the Palestinians in Jerusalem. Jerusalem is the capital of one state and that’s the state of Israel.” Therefore, despite U.S. wishes, without approval by the host country’s government (in this case, that is the Israeli government), the U.S. cannot move forth with their original plans of reopening the Jerusalem consulate. Israeli officials maintain that Jerusalem is its “indivisible capital,” reiterating that the Israeli government does not support the sharing of a capital with a future Palestinian state.
Israel Foreign Minister Yair Lapid suggested that Ramallah, the administrative center of the occupied West Bank, be considered as a potential site for the new U.S. consulate instead of Jerusalem. In response to this suggestion, Nabil Abu Rudeinah (Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ spokesman) stated “We will only accept a U.S. consulate in Jerusalem, the capital of the Palestinian state. That was what the U.S. administration had announced and had committed itself to doing.” If you are interested in learning more about the history of the ongoing Israel-Palestine conflict, feel free to reference the OWP Crisis Index page for more information.
By debating the location of a new U.S. Consulate for Palestine, it is clear that the Israeli government, the Palestinian Foreign Ministry, and the U.S. are all acknowledging the underlying potential of a future Palestinian state due to the hope (mainly from Palestinians) that the consulate would be in the future capital of the state of Palestine. With the potential answers to where a consulate could go, there are additional questions that require solutions. Many of these questions additionally demand attention from the international community in order to encourage cooperative and effective action from all parties involved. First, Israel’s rejection of East Jerusalem as the site of a new consulate is denying the existence of the city as Palestine’s ideological and historical capital. Second, by claiming that having a consulate for Palestine in East Jerusalem would undermine Israel’s sovereignty in the city, Israeli officials are admitting that Palestinians within that city makeup a political bloc significant enough to influence political decisions. This inherently proves that there needs to be further dialogue regarding Jerusalem beyond the context of the consulate. Third, if Israel is going to emphasize its right to sovereignty within the city of Jerusalem in these conversations about the consulate’s location, then Palestinian authorities need to be afforded that same right. Given that Ramallah serves as the current de facto administrative capital for Palestine, this could make it a viable contender to host the consulate. However, the occupied West Bank is notorious for having poor infrastructure while also being heavily guarded by Israeli military checkpoints throughout the region. Therefore, conversations about having a U.S. consulate for Palestine, regardless of its location, should further emphasize the need to de-militarize Palestine in order to create a space for Palestinians that is uninhibited by an occupying force.
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