US Deputy Secretary of State for management and resources Brian McKeon indicated further obstacles for diplomatic relations between Washington and Ramallah when he stated that the US would require “the consent of the host government to open any diplomatic facility.”
Former US President Donald Trump had closed the US consulate in 2019, which functioned as a de-facto embassy for Palestinians, one of several moves that would restrict the Palestinian Authority’s diplomatic standing and foreign relations, while bolstering Israel’s colonial narrative over the ownership of Jerusalem. The consulate was incorporated in the US Embassy to Israel, ostensibly for efficiency of services.
Trump’s decision implemented the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995. The Trump administration’s first prominent pro-Israel policy – the unilateral declaration that Jerusalem is Israel’s undivided capital – is also reflective of dormant US policy which no other prior government had implemented. Trump’s statement was followed by the US embassy’s relocation from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in May 2018, an action which the international community opposed as a violation of international consensus.
As a gesture towards rebuilding ties with the PA, President Joe Biden announced he would reopen the consulate.
As a gesture towards rebuilding ties with the Palestinian National Authority (PA), US President Joe Biden announced he would reopen the consulate. The US House of Representatives, however, is lobbying against Biden’s policy, and over 100 House Republicans are seeking to block the move through a bill that calls for upholding the implementation of the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995.
Israel, of course, is staunchly opposing the move. If Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett accepts the Biden administration’s proposal, he would be perceived as reneging on the unilateral declaration of Jerusalem as Israel’s unified capital. No Israeli prime minister would run the risk of alienating his electorate.
Additionally, Israel is able to refuse concessionary gestures towards the Palestinians. Despite the Israeli government’s rhetoric of its security being under constant threat, Israel faces no imminent security risks. What Israel needs to secure, however, is the continuation of Trump’s legacy.
The PA rebutted the US claim that Israel’s permission is required for reopening the consulate. “East Jerusalem is an inseparable part of the occupied Palestinian territory and is the capital of the state of Palestine. Israel, as the occupying power, does not have the right to veto the US administration’s decision,” the Palestinian Foreign Ministry’s statement partly read.
Here lies the contradiction which the Trump-Netanyahu allegiance kindled.
In response to Israel’s 1980 Basic Law on Jerusalem enacted by the government of Menachem Begin, which stated that a unified Jerusalem is Israel’s capital, the UN ordered the withdrawal of all diplomatic missions from Jerusalem through Resolution 478. The resolution partly states that Israel’s Basic Law enactment “constitutes a violation of international law and does not affect the continued application of the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, of 12 August 1949, in the Palestinian and other Arab territories occupied since June 1967, including Jerusalem.”
The Oslo Accords, signed in 1993, left important issues out, purportedly for future negotiations.
The Oslo Accords, signed in 1993, left important issues out, purportedly for future negotiations. These included the issue of Palestinian refugees, settlement expansion, and the status of Jerusalem. With no agreement reached, the international consensus on Jerusalem remained the same.
The Trump-Netanyahu allegiance broke away from the established consensus. Had Trump merely declared Israel as Jerusalem’s capital, it would have remained a symbolic gesture. Israel, however, is not after symbolism. The declaration was followed by Trump relocating the US embassy to Jerusalem, while Israel lobbied other allies to follow suit.
Meanwhile, the UN and the PA merely quoted resolutions and international consensus, while ignoring how Israel was changing realities on the ground. The UN and the PA may not recognize Israel’s sovereignty over Jerusalem, but Israel’s standing in the international community as a result of endless impunity has enabled it to violate international law and win in terms of territorial expansion and illegitimate claims.
Bennett and Israel’s Foreign Minister Yair Lapid have both unequivocally stated that there is no space in Jerusalem for a US consulate that serves Palestinians, with the latter saying the US could open a consulate in Ramallah. “We have expressed our position [to the US] determinedly, quietly, without drama, and I hope it will be understood. Jerusalem is the capital of Israel alone,” Bennett declared.
Secluding Palestinians to Ramallah is what Trump’s “Deal of the Century” attempted to achieve. The unfortunate reality is that the PA is in no position to concretely oppose Israel and demand that Biden keeps his word. In a recent interview with France 24, the PA’s Foreign Minister Riad al-Maliki declared that Ramallah believes Biden but is still “waiting” for him to fulfill his declarations. With Israel steadfastly refusing, the PA will likely be waiting for a long while, incurring additional losses to Jerusalem.
Secluding Palestinians to Ramallah is what Trump’s “Deal of the Century” attempted to achieve.
The PA has also exploited the issue of Jerusalem, both in terms of fanning the flames of resistance while providing no support for Palestinians facing the wrath of Israel’s military, as well as in the context of the canceled elections. As soon as it was ascertained that the PA would lose its electoral standing, the PA cited Israel’s refusal to allow Palestinians in Jerusalem to vote as the reason it canceled the elections, despite Palestinians persistently clamoring to vote. “Bring me East Jerusalem in the process of elections and you will see me holding elections within 60 days,” al-Maliki challenged.
The truth is that the PA missed an opportunity to allow Palestinians a political voice, which would have also reflected upon Jerusalem. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and his ilk treat Jerusalem as a symbol. As the situation currently stands, it is the Palestinian people and Israel who are tenaciously holding on to the city; the latter breaking international law in the process. The PA is waiting for Biden to make a move, while Israel is reassured of Trump’s legacy in terms of its false claims over Jerusalem.
Contrary to mainstream assumptions, Biden’s professed support for the two-state paradigm holds no ground against the consequences of Trump’s policies. Pitting Biden against Trump won him the elections, and the PA cheered, but Biden has reversed none of Trump’s most damaging policies and Israel is aware it still holds the political advantage. The US consulate is just one fragment of a dangerous precedent set by Trump, one that cannot be isolated from the earlier Zionist narrative of Greater Israel.