The proposed 'Palestinian consulate' in Jerusalem is even worse than we thought

See update below

On Monday, David Zukerman explained why it's a problem that Biden intends to open a Palestinian consulate in Jerusalem despite the fact that the U.S., thanks to Trump, recognizes that Jerusalem is Israel's capital.  That recognition means that Israel must consent to the U.S. opening a Palestinian consulate in her capital — and Israel is not giving her consent.  The article details the many diplomatic problems Biden's dogmatism creates.  It turns out, though, the Biden's plan is even more offensive than we realized.

I received an email from someone in Israel who, while he does not want to have his name or even a pseudonym on a full article, authorized me to reprint his letter, which I'm doing here.  The letter is slightly abridged only to remove extraneous material:


I am a resident of Israel. There is a minor, but nonetheless significant, error in the article: The proposed consulate is not located in "East Jerusalem." The proposed consulate building is actually located in West Jerusalem, on Agron Street, in the center of the city!

This is the very same building that was known as the U.S. Consulate before the U.S. Embassy's relocation from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. For some reason, a different building was selected to be the embassy, which (conveniently?) left the Agron Street building available to become a consulate again, should a future administration desire to do so.

In fact, it appears that the U.S. never actually stopped using the Agron Street building as "the Palestinian Affairs Unit" of the U.S. Embassy, even though the main embassy building is on David Flusser Street. Thus, all they really have to do to make it a consulate again is to replace the sign at the front gate.

The symbolism of locating a consulate in "West Jerusalem" is even more significant than having it in "East Jerusalem." Whereas locating the consulate in East Jerusalem implies that the United States does not recognize Israeli sovereignty over the entire city, situating it in West Jerusalem puts into question U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's permanent capital and even of its sovereignty over any of Jerusalem.

This was always an implication of the former consulate's location on Agron Street, and, if you recall, U.S. policy had been to treat Jerusalem's status with a degree of ambiguity, referring to it on official documents as "Jerusalem," rather than as "Jerusalem, Israel." However, because the former consulate was actually established long before the establishment of the State of Israel, there was a plausible excuse for the U.S. to maintain that longtime location; and that is perhaps why Israel did not make a major diplomatic issue of it after 1967.

However, to reestablish the consulate once it was de-established is a step too far. If the current Israeli government were to allow it, even if strong-armed by the State Department ignoring its vocal objections, its days would be numbered. If the Biden Administration really wants the return of Prime Minister Netanyahu, it should go ahead and open the consulate over Prime Minister Bennett's adamant objection.

Note: The quotation marks are around "East Jerusalem" because the portions of Jerusalem that Jordan occupied between 1948 and 1967 are also located on the north and south sides of the city, as well as on the east side, and because Israelis consider Jerusalem to be a united city, not two cities known as "East Jerusalem" and "West Jerusalem." Those terms are geographic descriptions; not formal place names.


My correspondent contacted me to let me know that a Jerusalem Post article adds more information to the story:

There is an article in the Jerusalem Post that gives a much more complete history than I was able to provide. The current embassy on David Flusser Street in Jerusalem’s Arnona neighborhood had already been called the consulate for a number of years prior to its being renamed (in 2018) the embassy. By then, the Agron Street building in the center of the city was a second consulate building, run more-or-less independently of the other consulate two miles away.

Following the Oslo Agreement of 1993, the Agron Street building, which had been used as the US consulate since 1912, mainly served Palestinians, essentially as the de-facto U.S. embassy to the Palestinian Authority; nevertheless, the Israeli government chose not to make a big issue of it. However, now that the Arnona building has been upgraded to an embassy, and the Agron Street building downgraded from an independent consulate to an off-campus office of the embassy, Israel can no longer accept reverting to the pre-2018 situation.

It would be an obvious step backward, and this is why the Palestinians and their supporters are pushing so hard for it. They can’t get the embassy moved back to Tel Aviv (yet), but, from their perspective, this would be the next best thing. 

Image: The Western Wall in Jerusalem by Rhododendrites.  CC BY-SA 4.0.

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