Israel has said that the United States’s plan to reopen its consulate in Jerusalem is a “bad idea” and could destabilise Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s government.
The previous administration of US President Donald Trump signalled support for Israel’s claim on Jerusalem as its capital by moving the US embassy there from Tel Aviv and shuttering the consulate, which has traditionally been a base for diplomatic outreach to Palestinians.
It was among several moves by the Trump administration that incensed Palestinian leaders, who want East Jerusalem as capital of a future state.
President Joe Biden has pledged to restore US ties with the Palestinians and back a two-state solution. In May, Secretary of State Antony Blinked announced that the US would reopen the consulate, which has been closed since 2019.
The consulate, located in occupied East Jerusalem, had long served as an autonomous office that oversaw diplomatic relations with the Palestinians.
“We think it’s a bad idea,” Foreign Minister Yair Lapid told a news conference on Wednesday when asked about the reopening. “Jerusalem is the sovereign capital of Israel and Israel alone, and therefore, we don’t think it’s a good idea.
“We know that the [Biden] administration has a different way of looking at this, but since it is happening in Israel, we are sure they are listening to us very carefully.”
Wasel Abu Youssef, a senior Palestine Liberation Organization official, told Reuters that the Israeli rejection of the consulate’s opening was expected, adding: “They are trying to maintain the status quo and block any political solution”.
Asked about Lapid’s remarks, a US embassy spokesperson said: “As Secretary Blinken announced in May, the United States will be moving forward with the process to reopen our consulate in Jerusalem. We do not have additional information to share at this time.”
Israel deems all of Jerusalem its undivided capital – a status not recognised internationally.
It captured the city’s east, along with the West Bank and Gaza, in the 1967 Middle East war and has occupied the territories ever since.
Bennett, a nationalist atop a cross-partisan coalition, opposes Palestinian statehood. Reopening the consulate could unsettle Bennett’s government, which ended long-term premier Benjamin Netanyahu’s tenure in June, Lapid said.
“We have an interesting and yet delicate structure of our government and we think this might destabilise this government and I don’t think the American administration wants this to happen,” he said.
Divisions among Palestinians also cast doubt about the prospects for diplomacy, Lapid said. “I am a devoted believer in the two-state solution … but we’ll have to admit the fact this is not feasible in the current situation.