FILE PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken addresses media ahead of U.S.-Mexico High Level Security Dialogue in Mexico City, in Mexico October 8, 2021. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido
October 13, 2021
By Humeyra Pamuk, Matt Spetalnick and Daphne Psaledakis
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Biden administration plans to press ahead with its plan to reopen the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem as part of efforts to deepen ties with Palestinians, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Wednesday.
Blinken reiterated his pledge to move toward re-establishing the consulate, which had traditionally been a base for diplomatic outreach to the Palestinians before it was closed by President Joe Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, in 2018.
But Blinken, speaking at a Washington news conference with visiting Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and United Arab Emirates Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, stopped short of setting a date for reopening the consulate, which is opposed by Israel’s new cross-partisan government.
“We’ll be moving forward with the process of opening a consulate as part of deepening of those ties with the Palestinians,” Blinken said at the State Department.
The Biden administration has sought to repair relations with the Palestinians that were badly damaged under Trump.
The consulate was subsumed into the U.S. Embassy that was moved to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv in 2018 by Trump – steps hailed by Israel and condemned by Palestinians.
The Biden administration says it will reopen the consulate while leaving the embassy in place.
Israel regards all of Jerusalem as its capital. Palestinians want East Jerusalem, captured by Israel in a 1967 war along with the West Bank and Gaza Strip, as capital of the state they seek.
Blinken spoke in response to a reporter’s question after a trilateral meeting that marked the latest sign of the Biden administration’s embrace of the so-called Abraham Accords, which were widely seen as a diplomatic success for Trump.
The UAE was the first of four Arab states that moved late last year to normalize relations with Israel after decades of enmity. Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco soon followed suit.
Palestinian officials said they felt betrayed by their Arab brethren for reaching deals with Israel without first demanding progress toward the creation of a Palestinian state.
Some critics said Trump had promoted Arab rapprochement with Israel while ignoring Palestinian aspirations for statehood on land that Israel occupied in the 1967 Middle East war.
Biden administration officials have said the Abraham Accords are no substitute for a two-state solution between Israelis and Palestinians, a principle of U.S. Middle East policy that the Democratic president has returned to after Trump moved away from it.
But U.S. officials have said the conditions are not right to press for a resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, which collapsed in 2014. Washington has appeared reluctant to take any action on an issue that could destabilize Israel’s fragile coalition.
(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk, Maayan Lubell, Daphne Psaledakis, Matt Spetalnick, Simon Lewis; writing by Matt Spetalnick; editing by Mark Heinrich)