JOEL B. POLLAK 200 House Republicans, led by Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY), have signed a letter opposing President Joe Biden’s plan to put a consulate in Jerusalem to deal specifically with the Palestinians — a move opposed by Israel, and against international law.
The Biden administration’s unilateral effort is an attempt to appease the Democrats’ anti-Israel wing, and to reverse President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, which included moving the U.S. embassy there in 2018.
Trump’s decision was pursuant to the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995, for which then-Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE) voted. But President Biden has sought to undo Trump’s legacy — even though his Jerusalem move led to the Abraham Accords, a successful peace agreement between Israel and several Arab states.
The letter points out that Biden’s consulate would violate U.S. law and several subsequent resolutions affirming its purpose. It also argues that Biden would “create a misguided situation in which the U.S. would essentially have two separate diplomatic missions in Israel’s capital,” which would “reward and turn a blind eye to the Palestinian Authority engaging in the real obstacles to peace, such as refusing to recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish State” and supporting terrorists.
After 2018, a building in western Jerusalem that had been used as the U.S. consulate was converted into an annex of the embassy. The U.S. cannot make it a consulate again without Israel’s consent, under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, to which both the U.S. and Israel are parties, and which the U.S. Senate ratified unanimously in 1969. A State Department official admitted last week that the U.S. lacks the authority under international law to unilaterally declare a consulate.
Most countries that have separate diplomatic missions to the Palestinian photo-state have offices in Ramallah, the de facto capital of the Palestinian Authority. Israelis fear that creating a separate consulate in Jerusalem to cater to Palestinians, who are currently served by the embassy, would serve as a prelude to dividing Israel’s capital. Though Biden erroneously referred during the campaign to the consulate site as being in “East Jerusalem,” it is in fact in western Jerusalem, which has never been under the control of any Arab state.
Last week, Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-TN) introduced a bill to block funding for any new U.S. consulate in Jerusalem. It received the support of over 35 Republican Senators.
President Biden has claimed that his administration’s approach to international affairs is guided by principles of “diplomacy,” but Israel appears to be the one country to which he denies diplomatic respect.