Jun 30, 2021 - World

Israel asks U.S. to hold off on reopening Jerusalem consulate

Picture of Benjamin Netanyahu standing behind Antony Blinken
Netanyahu (right) discussed the issue with Blinken in May. Photo: Alex Brandon/Pool/AFP via Getty

Israel Foreign Ministry officials have been lobbying the State Department to hold off on reopening the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem to avoid creating difficulties for the new government, Israeli officials tell me.

Why it matters: Israel's new government contains an unstable mix of parties with opposing views, and opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu has been pushing the consulate issue to portray the government as weak and unable to stand up to the Biden administration.

The backstory: The consulate served as the primary U.S. diplomatic mission to the Palestinians until 2019, when the Trump administration merged it into the new U.S. Embassy to Israel in Jerusalem. Biden has promised to reopen it.

  • But the Israeli Foreign Ministry has asked the State Department to hold off until at least after the summer to give the new government more time to stabilize.
  • Israeli officials say they believe the Biden administration understands the situation, won't press on this issue for now and may revisit it in September.
  • The Israeli Foreign Ministry declined to comment.

Flashback: Secretary of State Antony Blinken raised the issue with Netanyahu during his visit to Israel in May, when Netanyahu was in his final weeks as prime minister.

  • Netanyahu asked Blinken to open the consulate in Ramallah or in the Abu Dis suburb of Jerusalem but not in the city itself, Israeli officials say.
  • When Blinken pushed back and said the U.S. would reopen the consulate in Jerusalem, Netanyahu replied, “You are going to help me score political points," according to officials briefed on the meeting.
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