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JERUSALEM, Israel – Israel is doubling down on its opposition to the White House’s plans to reopen America’s consulate in Jerusalem to serve Palestinians.
Last month, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the Biden administration intends to press ahead with its plans to reopen the consulate to deepen ties with the Palestinians and repair relations that were damaged during the Trump administration.
For years, the building served as a liaison office between the Palestinians and Washington. But in 2018, it was subsumed into the Israeli embassy and put under the US Ambassador to Israel’s authority – a move that drew harsh condemnation from Palestinian leaders and praise from Israel.
To reopen the Palestinian mission, the State Department has said that American and international law requires it to first obtain Israel’s consent.
Israel is adamant that it will not permit the Biden administration to reopen the consulate.
"There is no room for another American consulate in Jerusalem,” Prime Minister Naftali Bennett told CNN at a press conference Saturday evening, adding that his government had “clearly and openly” expressed its opposition to the plan with Washington.
“We always present our position quietly without drama and we expect it to be understood. Jerusalem is the capital of one state and that's the state of Israel," Bennett said.
Israel views the Biden administration’s plans to reopen the consulate as a challenge to its sovereignty over Jerusalem as its undivided capital. The Palestinians see it as a step towards one day establishing a future state with eastern Jerusalem as its capital.
Palestinians slammed Israel’s rejection of Washington’s plans.
“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 U.S. administration’s decision,” the Palestinian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
Senators James Lankford, Bill Hagerty, and other leading Republican senators have introduced a bill opposing the reopening of the Palestinian consulate.
In a statement, Lankford says their bill: “Ensures future administrations uphold the law by keeping our embassy in Jerusalem and preventing other US consular posts from being established in Jerusalem. Biden’s intentions to ignore existing law and reopen a consulate for the Palestinians in Israel’s capital does not bring the region closer to peace; it only undermines our recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and weakens US leadership in facilitating a long-term solution to this conflict.”
Blinken has not given a specific date for the reopening and U.S. officials have implied that Israeli resistance to the move could act as a hindrance.