U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced plans on Tuesday to reopen the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem. The decision reverses the Trump administration's move in 2019 to merge the consulate under the embassy.
For years, the consulate served as an autonomous office in charge of diplomatic relations with the Palestinians. Former President Donald Trump downgraded its operations and placed them under the authority of his ambassador to Israel when he moved the embassy to Jerusalem.
The move upset the Palestinian Authority which views the eastern part of Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state. The move requires Israeli approval and is one more step by the Biden Administration to re-engage with the government of PA President Mahmoud Abbas, currently in the 15th year of his 4 year term.
Productive discussion today with Palestinian Authority President Abbas and PM Shtayyeh today. We discussed deepening America’s partnership with the Palestinians and spoke about the need to advance equal measures of freedom, security, and prosperity for Palestinians and Israelis. pic.twitter.com/RAHDseH7xj
— Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) May 25, 2021
Blinken told reporters, “As I told both Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu and President Abbas, the United States will be moving forward with the process to reopen our consulate in Jerusalem. That’s an important way for our country to engage with and provide support for the Palestinian people.”
“As I told the president (Abbas), I am here to underscore the commitment of the United States government to its relationship with the Palestinian Authority,” Blinken said.
“We thank the American state for the support it has given to the State of Palestine,” Abbas responded. “We hope that the future is full of diplomatic activities led by the United States and the Quartet, so as to reach a just, comprehensive solution based on international law.”
Blinken’s meeting with PA President Abbas is part of the Biden’s Administration to advance the “two-state solution.”
However, the Palestinian Media Watch released an interview with Fatah Central Committee Secretary Jibril Rajoub. Fatah is the political party of Abbas. He told an interviewer, “This situation requires from us (i.e., Fatah) as Palestinians to take a position and also the international community, which understands the scope of the fascist and Nazi state terror that is being carried out against the Palestinians… We are convinced that the conflict [with Israel] has reached the stage that either the world will give us a solution or we will continue the cycle of blood and killing.”
He was then asked, “How realistic today are the possibilities that have been raised that Fatah will enter an armed confrontation with the occupation… as happened in the 2000 [second] Intifada?” Rajoub replied, “That possibility is on the table.”
In yet another move to re-establish relations with the Palestinian Authority, the Biden Administration hopes to reopen the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) mission in D.C. The Trump administration shut it down since Congress passed a law it could be closed if the Palestinians filed a suit against Israel at the ICC. They did in 2017. Congress also passed a law in 1987 designating the PLO as a terror group.
On Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken also met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as part of his regional trip in the aftermath of the conflict between Hamas and Israel. During that conflict, Hamas and other Islamic terror organizations fired more than 4,000 rockets out of Gaza. To stop those rockets, Israel launched a massive surgical bombing campaign.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Secretary of State Blinken he hoped the U.S. will not renew the nuclear deal with Iran and that if necessary Israel will chart its own course. He stated, “We also reiterated that whatever happens Israel will always reserve the right to defend itself against a regime committed to our destruction, committed to getting the weapons of mass destruction for that end.”
Blinken came with a message to rebuild Gaza after many buildings were destroyed in the Israeli bombing campaign. Many of those buildings were empty since Israel enacted a policy of warning residents to leave those buildings to minimize civilian casualties. Hamas also implemented a policy as it has in the past of embedding its military infrastructure within civilian areas.
The U.S. has committed hundreds of millions of dollars to rebuild Gaza. Blinken said, “The United States will work to rally international support around that effort while also making our own significant contributions including some that I will announce later today. We’ll work with our partners, closely with all to ensure that Hamas does not benefit.”
For many, it’s an open question to see how U.S. and international aid can rebuild Gaza without benefiting Hamas.
Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, the founder of the Shurat Hadin Israeli Law Center, an organization that fights terror financing wrote, “The truth is simple: money transferred to the Gaza Strip cannot be monitored. No by international organizations whose functionaries answer to Hamas, not by charities – as their infrastructure is an integral part of Hamas and the public sympathy for it, and certainly not by the Palestinian Authority, which has no power over the Strip whatsoever. When will we understand that any cash that goes into Gaza finds its way to Hamas' military goals?”
The question many are asking too is where did Hamas get all those rockets it fired in the 11-day war? After the conflict, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh gave much of the credit to Iran.
He said, “I cannot but thank those who brought forth money and weaponry to the valiant resistance, the Islamic Republic of Iran, who did not hold back money, weapons and technical support.”
During the conflict, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu displayed an Iranian drone intercepted on the Jordanian border. He said, "I think tells, it says everything on the true patron of terror in the middle east in the world - Iran."
It’s this flagrant support of Hamas and other terror groups in the region that led 44 Republican senators to send a letter to President Biden to suspend its nuclear talks with the Islamic regime.
Many like former Israeli ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer are concerned sanctions relief would enable Iran to export its terror throughout the region.
He told CBN News, “Iran is stirring the pot in Iraq, in Syria, in Lebanon, in Yemen, in Gaza. That’s all of Iran’s terror proxies in the region. This is another reason why what’s going on in Gaza, we shouldn’t lose sight who the big enemy is, Iran. I hope very much that the US administration will not go back into the dangerous nuclear deal with Iran, and it will continue to keep the pressure on that Iranian regime that represents a threat to us. it represents a threat to our Arab neighbors and it represents a threat to peace throughout the region.”
Blinken’s meeting with Netanyahu launched a regional tour that saw him head to Ramallah Tuesday afternoon and then to Jordan and Egypt in a bid to shore up last week’s Israel-Gaza ceasefire and launch the reconstruction effort.
He also met with Defense Minister Benny Gantz, Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, and opposition leader Yair Lapid in Jerusalem.