The Israeli government has rejected a request by the Biden administration to allow the US to reopen a consulate for citizens of the Palestinian territories in Jerusalem, a blow to the White House’s efforts to mend ties with Palestinian leaders.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said at a press conference on Sunday that there was “no room” for a second US consulate in Jerusalem; the US closed its consulate serving Palestinian citizens in 2019 as the Trump administration moved to formally recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The move infuriated Palestinian officials, as the city is also claimed by the Palestinian National Authority.
"There's no room for another American consulate in Jerusalem,” said the Israeli prime minister, according to The Associated Press. "Jerusalem is the capital of one state and that's the state of Israel."
The Independent has reached out to the US State Department for comment.
Consulate services for Palestinians continue to a limited degree at the embassy opened by the US in Jerusalem, which primarily served as the headquarters for US-Israeli relations but also contains the US’s Palestinian Affairs Unit.
The Israeli government has proposed that the US open a consulate in the West Bank, an idea opposed by Palestinian leaders who have resisted the US’s recognition of Jerusalem as solely Israel’s capital and seek the city’s eastern half as part of their claimed territory.
The Trump administration strongly aligned itself with Israel’s former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the years former President Donald Trump was in office, and the US oversaw the official recognition of Israel’s sovereignty by Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates during his term.
At the same time, US relations with the Palestinian territories deteriorated and the White House’s efforts to engineer a deal between Israeli and Palestinian leaders never came to fruition. The experience mirrored Mr Trump’s similarly failed attempts to reach a major deal with North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un despite months of diplomacy including becoming the first-ever US president to cross the border into North Korea.
A spokesperson for the State Department sharply criticised announcements of plans to continue the construction of settlements for Israelis in lands claimed by the Palestinian Authority last month, stating that such a plan “damages the prospects for a two state solution”.
“We strongly oppose the expansion of settlements, which is completely inconsistent with efforts to lower tensions and to ensure calm,” Ned Price said in October.
The construction of settlements (and subsequent destruction of Palestinian homes in contested neighbourhoods and areas) have become flashpoints for the conflict as images and videos of such scenes have spread quickly across social media in the US and other countries.
Videos circulated earlier this year as evictions of dozens of Palestinian families began in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood despite US opposition and protests erupted in the area as a result.
Israeli settlers involved in the Sheikh Jarrah controversy have insisted to The Associated Press and other news outlets that the Jewish people and by extension Israel’s government have a right to the land, while Palestinians have called the issue one of ethnic cleansing.
The issue is currently being appealed to Israel’s highest court after Palestinian families living on the land rejected a compromise in which they would remain on the land but end their claim to its ownership and pay an annual fee to keep living there.
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