Israel calls US plans to reopen Jerusalem consulate a 'bad idea'

Before its closure under the Trump administration, the US consulate served also as a liaison office with the Palestinian Authority

A general view of the city of Jerusalem shows the Dome of the Rock mosque (C) on December 4, 2017. 
Palestinian leaders were seeking to rally diplomatic support to persuade US President Donald Trump not to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital after suggestions that he planned to do so. East Jerusalem was under Jordanian control from Israel's creation in 1948 until Israeli forces captured it during the 1967 Six-Day War. Israel later annexed it in a move not recognised by the international community. / AFP PHOTO / THOMAS COEX
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Israel on Wednesday said a US plan to reopen its consulate in Jerusalem, that has traditionally been a base for diplomatic outreach to the Palestinians, could destabilise Prime Minister Naftali Bennett's new government.

"We think it's a bad idea," Foreign Minister Yair Lapid told a news conference 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," he said.

"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."

Mr Bennett, a nationalist at the helm of a cross-partisan coalition, opposes Palestinian statehood.

The administration of President Donald Trump signalled support for Israel's claim on Jerusalem as its capital by moving the US 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 move forward with reopening the consulate. It has been closed since 2019, with Palestinian affairs handled by the embassy.

Divisions among Palestinians also cast doubt about the prospects for diplomacy, Mr 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. 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 by Reuters, Wasel Abu Youssef, an official with the umbrella Palestine Liberation Organisation, said Israel was trying to keep the status quo and block any political solution.

The US embassy did not immediately 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 Arab-Israeli War.

Updated: September 01, 2021, 3:20 PM