The government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has doubled down on its opposition to the U.S. Embassy moving to Jerusalem, which is planned for May 14, saying there is no room for an American Consulate for Palestinians in Israel.
According to Fox News, the Israeli government will do what it can to prevent a U.S. consulate from moving to Jerusalem from its current location, located in Jaffa.
A government official said this position was made public in order to “cool tensions and to minimize the danger to Israeli-Palestinian relations.”
The official said the government “will continue to oppose the move, and deny visas for Palestinians who want to travel there.”
A State Department official responded, saying the Trump administration has supported “the expansion of consular facilities in Israel. We’re working in coordination with the Israeli government on this particular issue.”
The government official noted that the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem in 2009 “has been granted a site in the heart of Jaffa, which would permit Americans to travel throughout the West Bank and to assist Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied territories and northern Sinai in traveling to or traveling through the United States.”
“The legal requirement that the State Department seek local Israeli approval for consular facilities is not absolute. In order to facilitate Ambassador Jerusalem’s efforts to carry out those responsibilities, the State Department complies with the local law prohibiting establishment of foreign embassies or consulates without first obtaining local approval,” the official said.
The official added, “The State Department believes that the consular facility in Jaffa should be reduced to a modest level — as low as 20 percent of its former size — to enable consular and consular officer functions to be carried out.”
The official said the issue of a U.S. consulate in Jerusalem is not simply a matter of whether it remains in the Old City, but is an additional operation in the Jaffa district that is required by law to be carried out regardless of whether there is an embassy located there.
The State Department official noted that opening a consular facility in any foreign territory has been done in cooperation with the host government by the Trump administration, even though the embassy isn’t located there.
The official said Israel’s request to use the site for its first Consulate, located in Jerusalem, as “an alternative location of choice for the U.S. Consulate in Tel Aviv” was initially approved in late 2009.
“The facility was approved, as required by local law, based on extensive consultation with the Israeli Government and good faith negotiations with the local community. The local government concluded, after lengthy community and statewide consultation with key members of the Jaffa community, that the operation was likely to contribute to their community’s good life and welfare,” the official said.
“The Israelis then exercised their right to use the Jaffa Consulate to serve Palestinian Palestinians. The Jaffa Consulate Mission served that function until 2011, at which time the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office announced that it would formally take the facility away from the Palestinians.”
The official said the Israelis may return the facility to the Palestinians, “or they may choose to transfer the Consulate’s activities to a site elsewhere in Israel. No matter which option they choose, they will maintain a State Department Consular capacity in Jaffa. That Consular capacity is essential to Israelis and Palestinian nationals seeking consular clearance in the United States,” the official said.
The State Department said President Trump “will be meeting with President Netanyahu on Wednesday as part of the U.S.-Israel Security Strategic Dialogue.”
The Trump administration plan to open a permanent U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem.
Congress mandated moving the embassy to Jerusalem in 1995, but no president had moved forward with the mandated move.
President Trump fulfilled the order when he recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
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