Israel says US plan to reopen Jerusalem consulate is ‘bad idea’

Israel has said a US plan to reopen its consulate in Jerusalem that was traditionally a base for diplomatic outreach to Palestinians is a “bad idea” and could destabilise the prime minister’s new government.

The previous US administration of Donald Trump signalled support for Israel’s claim on Jerusalem as its capital by moving its embassy there from Tel Aviv and subsuming the consulate in that mission.

It was among several moves that incensed the Palestinians, who want East Jerusalem as capital of a hoped-for, future state.

President Joe Biden has pledged to restore ties with the Palestinians, back a two-state solution and reopen the consulate. It has been closed since 2019, with Palestinian affairs handled by the embassy.

“We think it’s a bad idea,” Israel’s foreign minister, Yair Lapid, told a news conference on Wednesday when asked about the reopening. “Jerusalem is the sovereign capital of Israel and Israel alone, and therefore we don’t think it’s a good idea.

“We know that the [Biden] administration has a different way of looking at this, but since it is happening in Israel, we are sure they are listening to us very carefully.“

Asked for comment, Wasel Abu Youssef, an official with the umbrella Palestine Liberation Organization, said Israel was trying to keep the status quo and block any political solution.

The US embassy had no immediate comment.

Israel deems all of Jerusalem its undivided capital – a status not recognised internationally. It captured the city’s east, along with the occupied West Bank and Gaza, in the 1967 six-day war.

The Israeli prime minister, Naftali Bennett, a nationalist atop a cross-partisan coalition, opposes Palestinian statehood. Lapid said reopening the consulate could unsettle his government, which ended the long-term premier Benjamin Netanyahu’s tenure in June.

“We have an interesting and yet delicate structure of our government and we think this might destabilise this government and I don’t think the American administration wants this to happen,” Lapid said.

Divisions among Palestinians also cast doubt on the prospects for diplomacy, Lapid said. “I am a devoted believer in the two-state solution … but we’ll have to admit the fact this is not feasible in the current situation.”

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