Reported by By Andrew Jose September 8, 2021
President Joe Biden, right, meets with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in the Oval Office at the White House on Aug. 27, 2021. (Sarahbeth Maney – Pool / Getty Images)
President Joe Biden is expected to reopen the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem, in a reversal of a decision by former President Donald Trump. When the Trump administration moved the U.S. Embassy in 2019 from Tel Aviv to Israel’s capital city of Jerusalem, the consulate was merged with the new embassy — a move that led to worsening ties with the Palestinian Authority, NPR reported at the time.
However, according to a Wednesday report by Axios, the Biden administration has its eyes set on overturning the decision made by the Trump administration, despite Israeli objections.
“President Biden told Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett during their White House meeting that he will not abandon his plan to reopen the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem, setting up a major point of contention between the administrations,” Axios reported.
Citing unnamed Israeli and U.S. officials, Axios correspondent Barak Ravid reported that during Bennett’s bilateral meeting with Biden, the issue of the consulate in Jerusalem was raised multiple times by the U.S. president. Biden reportedly stressed that he had made a campaign pledge regarding the issue. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has also already said the U.S. would go ahead with the decision. According to Axios, the Biden administration previously agreed to carry out the reopening after Nov. 4, which is the deadline for Bennett to get his budget passed in the Knesset, the unicameral Israeli equivalent of Congress.
Biden’s plans were criticized by several Israeli officials.
“We think it’s a bad idea,” Israel’s foreign minister, Yair Lapid, told journalists on Sept. 1, according to The Guardian.
“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,” Lapid said.
“Jerusalem is the capital of one country only: Israel. I don’t want to go into details, but this is my clear position,” Bennett told the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations on Friday through a Zoom video conference.
Bennett, however, also mentioned that he desired a “no drama” relationship with the Biden administration, according to Axios. The outlet reported that many Israeli leaders, such as Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked and Minister of Justice Gideon Sa’ar, believe that reopening the consulate would be tantamount to Biden infringing on Israel’s sovereignty in Jerusalem. Israel considers all of Jerusalem to be its capital. The Palestinians seek the eastern half of the city to be the capital of their desired Palestinian state.
“We have an interesting and yet delicate structure of our government and we think this might destabilize this government and I don’t think the American administration wants this to happen,” Lapid told reporters at the Sept. 1 news conference, The Guardian reported.
“If the Biden administration wants to see Netanyahu abandoning his Pilates classes and going back to the prime minister’s office, this is the best way to do it,” a senior Israeli official told Axios.
Andrew Jose, Contributor
Andrew Jose is a journalist covering business and finance, foreign policy and the aviation industry, among other beats.