Future Likud leadership candidate Nir Barkat will lobby senators and congressmen in Washington on Wednesday and Thursday against reopening a consulate in Jerusalem that would exclusively serve the Palestinians.
Barkat will meet with more than ten senators and congressmen from both parties, as well as key journalists and influencers, in an effort to persuade the Biden administration to not move forward with the idea of having a consulate in Israel’s capital that handles relations with the Palestinian Authority.
“The Palestinians are served by the American embassy, which provides consular services,” Barkat told The Jerusalem Post from New York. “If the Americans want a diplomatic emissary to meet with the Palestinians, it cannot be in Jerusalem. There is no other capital where America has a consulate and embassy serving two nations. It would be tantamount to dividing Jerusalem, and opening a consulate requires Israeli approval, so it would be Israel approving dividing Jerusalem.”
“I will present the great danger,” he said. “The US invested trillions in Afghanistan and shortly after the Americans announced they were leaving, the Taliban took over. Israel cannot take the risk of having the Taliban take over here.”
The American administration is also facing pressure from MKs in the opposite direction. Joint List faction chairman Ahmed Tibi wrote US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, urging him to open the embassy in Jerusalem immediately.
“It is important for you to understand the utter importance of taking this step in order to create the right conditions for a meaningful peace process in line with your stated position that Israelis and Palestinians should enjoy equal measures of freedom, security, dignity and prosperity,” Tibi wrote on Monday.
In the letter that was signed by the six MKs in the faction, Tibi warned Blinken not to “play into the hands of those working to perpetuate an untenable system of Jewish supremacy from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.”
The US first opened a consulate in Jerusalem’s Old City in 1844, moving it to a nearby location outside the city walls on Agron Street in 1912. After the 1993 Oslo I Accord, the consulate acted as a de facto embassy to the PA. The Trump administration closed the Consulate General in 2019, folding its services into that of the US Embassy, which the US had relocated to Israel’s capital from Tel Aviv the previous year. Upon taking office in January, Biden pledged to reopen the consulate but has not yet set a date for the restoration of that mission.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett discussed Israeli opposition to the move when he met with Biden last month in Washington. Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said three weeks ago that US plans to reopen its Jerusalem Consulate General would jeopardize Israel’s government
“Jerusalem is the sovereign capital of Israel and of Israel alone, and therefore we don’t think it’s a good idea,” Lapid said.
Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.