Why is the US trying to open a consulate in Jerusalem for Palestinians?
November 19, 2021
(JNS) — It is frustrating to realize that even after two successive administrations (those of former U.S. President Donald Trump and his successor, Joe Biden) have recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel — and the latter confirmed that the U.S. embassy, which the former moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, would remain there — the State Department is still flirting with the concept of locating what amounts to a symbolic consulate to the Palestinian Authority in Jerusalem.
This misguided effort is being pursued despite all the progress made since the recognition, in accordance with U.S. law, of Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem, including the momentous Abraham Accords.
Moreover, the Oslo II Accord, signed in Washington D.C. on Sept. 28, 1995, and witnessed by then-U.S. President Bill Clinton, among others, expressly prohibits establishing a consulate for the P.A.
Article IX, Section 5a of the Oslo II Accord provides that the P.A. “… will not have powers and responsibilities in the sphere of foreign relations, which sphere includes the establishment abroad of embassies, consulates or other types of foreign missions and posts or permitting their establishment in the West Bank or the Gaza Strip, the appointment of or admission of diplomatic and consular staff, and the exercise of diplomatic functions.”
Why would the State Department seek to induce a breach of Oslo II, the very basis of the two-state solution for which it so fervently advocates? Furthermore, it’s hard to imagine why anyone other than a dilettante would insist on opening a consulate dedicated to serving the P.A. in the heart of Jerusalem, in what amounts to a foreign country?
Incredibly, it would appear that the proposed consulate is intended to serve only the non-Jewish residents that the P.A. governs in the areas of Judea and Samaria that it controls. The approximately 60,000 U.S. citizens who live in Judea and Samaria (including parts of Jerusalem beyond the so-called Green Line), who are Jewish, would effectively be excluded.
Aside from this being invidious discrimination of the most sordid variety, why would the U.S. actually reward the P.A. for being judenrein — cleansed of Jews — even to the point that it imprisons Palestinians convicted of violating its noxious laws prohibiting the sale of land to a Jew? Is this Jim Crow-like paradigm the State Department’s new policy of choice?
Consider, too, the anomalous character of this initiative. Last year, Congress passed the Tibetan Policy and Support Act, requiring the U.S. open a consulate in Tibet. Yet, to this day, there is no consulate in China-occupied Tibet serving Tibetans. Nor, for that matter, is there a consulate in Turkey serving only the Kurds; in China serving only the Uyghur Muslims; or in Myanmar serving only the Rohingya Muslims.
This is understandable, given that Article 4 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations requires that the consent of the receiving state be obtained before any such consulate is established. Presumably, the above states either didn’t give such consent, or a request was never made, due to an anticipated negative reaction.
Why, then, the double standard when it comes to Israel? Given that Israel has repeatedly said no, shouldn’t this end the discussion? Indeed, it is reported that Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid told U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken that Jerusalem shouldn’t host diplomatic missions that aren’t to and for Israel. He also argued that reopening the consulate would “send the wrong message” to the Palestinians.
It’s worth adding here that it would also send the wrong message to the world. Since the abrupt and undignified U.S. exit from Afghanistan in August, trust in American commitments has been eroding. Just reflect on the temerity of China’s brazen and provocative incursions in Taiwanese airspace in the aftermath of the withdrawal.
In this regard, the Trump administration’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel was tangible proof that the U.S. could be counted on to be a loyal friend and ally. The mixed messaging of prior administrations, which sought to flirt with everyone, had created a perception that it was not a genuine friend to anyone.
This new consular initiative, devoid of any practical utility, is all-too-reminiscent of the misadventures of the past. Let’s be clear: Despite Biden’s declaration that the U.S. embassy would remain in Jerusalem, there suddenly appears to be some ambiguity on the subject of Jerusalem. No such equivocation is legally proper or desirable, however.
In 1995, Congress, virtually unanimously, passed the Jerusalem Embassy Act. It provides that Jerusalem should remain an undivided city in which the rights of every ethnic and religious group are protected, and that it should be recognized as the capital of the State of Israel.
It took the efforts of many enlightened members of the Senate and House of Representatives, including Senator Jon Kyl (now retired) and then-Rep. Ron DeSantis (now governor of Florida), interested in doing what was right and just, to bring this vision of U.S. recognition of an undivided Jerusalem as the capital of Israel to fruition.
It was Trump who finally determined to end the useless and counterproductive practice of presidential waivers and issued the executive branch’s formal recognition of an undivided Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and moved the embassy there.
It’s now indisputably U.S. law that an undivided Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. This new attempt to infringe on the sovereign status of Jerusalem as an integral part of Israel and thereby diminish its legitimacy is baffling.
Why engage in frivolous machinations like setting up a symbolic consulate in Jerusalem to service a foreign non-state? Besides being an absurd and irresponsible way of making a point, it’s also illegal under U.S. and international law. It also flies in the face of the sentiment of the current Senate, which by an overwhelming, nearly unanimous, vote (97 to 3), reaffirmed that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. Yet, the State Department doyens insist on this kind of game playing and resort to cunning ploys, as a means of expressing their continued adherence to failed policies that should have been discarded long ago.
Israel is a loyal friend and vital strategic ally of the U.S. Diminishing it or sending mixed signals serves no useful purpose; it only tarnishes the prestige of the U.S.
It’s time to end this unrealistic and dangerous ploy. There is no genuinely rational or constructive reason to impinge on the legitimacy of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Indeed, as history has demonstrated in no uncertain terms, this kind of ambivalent policy only causes confusion and raises unrealistic expectations that serve to prevent, not enhance, the prospects for peace.
Farley Weiss, former president of the National Council of Young Israel, is an intellectual property attorney for the law firm of Weiss & Moy. The views expressed are the author’s, and not necessarily representative of NCYI.
Leonard Grunstein, a retired attorney and banker, founded and served as chairman of Metropolitan National Bank and Israel Discount Bank of New York. He also founded Project Ezrah and serves on the Board of Revel at Yeshiva University and the AIPAC National Council.