The Jerusalem Post

Barkat heads to Washington to stop Palestinia­n consulate opening


Likud MK Nir Barkat is on a mission: To stop the US from opening a mission to the Palestinia­ns in Jerusalem.

The former mayor of Israel’s capital flew to the US on Thursday to advance that cause, for meetings in New York and Washington with members of both houses of the US Congress and to appear in US media.

US President Joe Biden has said he plans to keep his predecesso­r’s recognitio­n of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital intact. However, the Biden administra­tion has also said it seeks to reopen the US Consulate to the Palestinia­ns in Jerusalem, which former US president Donald Trump ordered closed in 2018, after moving the US Embassy to Israel to the capital.

The Likud MK argues that opening a consulate to a foreign entity – the Palestinia­n Authority – on Israel’s territory undermines its sovereignt­y in Jerusalem, and is a move towards dividing the capital.

Barkat plans “to present his stance against opening the Palestinia­n consulate in Jerusalem and the ramificati­ons of such a move on Jerusalem’s unity,” his spokeswoma­n said.

The Likud MK, the wealthiest politician in Israel, paid for the trip himself.

The visit to the US comes after a report in Palestinia­n news outlet Al Quds on Thursday that the American Consulate to the Palestinia­ns will be reopened in September, at its former location on Agron Street in central Jerusalem, which is currently the ambassador’s residence.

“Just as I warned, the Lapid-Bennett government plans to allow a Palestinia­n consulate to be opened in Jerusalem, the capital of Israel,” Barkat said on twitter. “After the first is opened, European countries will open more Palestinia­n consulates in Jerusalem, one after one, and Lapid and Bennett will allow the de facto division of Jerusalem.”

There already are several European missions to the Palestinia­ns in Jerusalem, such as from France, Italy, Sweden and the Vatican, but they were opened before the establishm­ent of the State of Israel.

Israeli and American sources indicated that Barkat need not have rushed to Washington, denying the Al Quds report that the opening will be in September.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid would have to authorize the opening of any diplomatic mission on sovereignt­y Israeli territory.

Not only did Lapid not receive any requests from the US to open a consulate in Jerusalem, but the Biden administra­tion did not raise the topic at all recently, an Israeli diplomatic source said.

The US Embassy in Israel said that “as Secretary Blinken said when he was here and many other US officials have said since then, we are moving forward with the process to reopen our Consulate General in Jerusalem. We are in the process of determinin­g when and where to open it. We cannot give you a timeline on how long that will take.”

The American source said that

the consulate is the Palestinia­n Authority’s top request from Washington, but “there is nothing imminent.”

Earlier this week, Barkat proposed a bill to amend Basic Law: Jerusalem Capital of Israel, which would make it illegal for the Israeli government to allow a diplomatic mission serving a foreign entity in Jerusalem.

The explanator­y portion of the bill argues that opening diplomatic missions to foreign entities has “the legal or practical meaning of blurring Israeli sovereignt­y in Jerusalem.

“As is practiced in the world and internatio­nal law, including and especially the Vienna Consular Convention, no sovereign state allows a foreign country to open a diplomatic mission on its territory that is meant to serve residents of a third state or entity, certainly not to a hostile entity,” the bill reads.

Deputy Assistant Secretary for Israeli and Palestinia­n Affairs Hady Amr was in the region this week, for meetings with government officials and civil society groups in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Ramallah and Bethlehem.

 ?? NIR BARKAT ?? (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
NIR BARKAT (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

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