The professional echelon at the Israeli Foreign Ministry has described the expected American opening of a consulate to the Palestinians in Jerusalem as an “introduction to the division of the city.” They stress that the effect of such a measure, which is backed by U.S. President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken, will be to undermine, if not to completely reverse, President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel.
This is also how the matter is understood by the Palestinians. Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said a few days ago (in quotes report by Palestinian Media Watch) that “the message of the new American administration is that Jerusalem is not a united Israeli city, and that the American administration does not recognize the annexation of Arab Jerusalem by the Israeli side. We would like the American consulate to lay the foundation for a future American embassy in a Palestinian state.”
Israel’s battle against the upcoming move—the Americans are not in any way hiding their intention to carry it out—will soon come up against a further two American measures. The first is that the United States wishes to reopen not only the consulate on Agron Road, but also its east Jerusalem branch, which operated until 2010 on Nablus Road, (and later moved to Jerusalem’s Arnona neighborhood). The conversation with the Palestinians over this possibility has already begun.
The second measure reportedly being considered by the Biden administration is the reopening of the PLO representative office in Washington. A group of congressmen from the progressive branch of the Democratic party is preparing the ground for this to happen. The office was closed during President Trump’s term, but the Biden administration is leaning toward reopening it. This will happen when and if legislation being led by Michigan congressman Andy Levin passes through the House of Representatives.
As reported in Israel Hayom by Caroline Glick, to allow the office to be reopened, Levin wishes to amend the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1987. In that historic law, the United States designated the PLO as a terrorist organization and prohibited it from opening any offices on its territory or from receiving American funding as long as the organization and its members fail to cease engagement in terrorism.
A reward for nothing
Former Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren recalled last week how he was once summoned to the State Department and rebuked for the demolition of an outdoor toilet in eastern Jerusalem. “The demolition was authorized by the Israeli courts,” and that event, “like other humiliating incidents,” was “germinated at the American consulate in Jerusalem.”
Oren related how he spoke about this matter with the heads of Jewish organizations.
“I showed them the consulate’s website. Everything on it was a Palestinian narrative, just in Arabic and English. From that website, you would not know that there was a single Jew in Jerusalem,” he said.
“I told them; this is anti-Semitic. Do something about it. They weren’t willing to go up against the State Department,” he added.
The consulate, he said, had avoided “even an appearance” of U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, said Oren.
“It embittered the lives of successive governments here every time they built a new neighborhood for Jews in Jerusalem, and every time they tried to enforce planning and building laws in east Jerusalem,” he added.
Donald Trump, as we all know, changed this reality, but the Biden administration, from its very first days, has tried to turn the wheel back. In January, almost immediately after the Biden administration moved in, the title of the ambassador to Israel was changed on the embassy’s Twitter page from “U.S. Ambassador to Israel” to “U.S. Ambassador to Israel, the West Bank and Gaza.”
Public criticism led to a rapid return to the old title, but the trend was clear for all to see.