The United States and Israel are reportedly planning to form a joint team to hold discreet negotiations on the reopening of the U.S. Consulate for Palestinian Arabs in Jerusalem.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid discussed the consulate issue during a Wednesday meeting, Axios journalist Barak Ravid reported from Tel Aviv.
Ravid, citing unnamed Israeli officials, reported that Lapid pushed back on the U.S. position, saying, "I don’t know how to hold this coalition together if you reopen the consulate."
Blinken said he understood the sensitive political situation and wanted to start a dialogue to work toward a solution, Ravid reported.
The Secretary of State proposed the formation of a small team, including Lapid and himself, along with one or two aides from each side to discuss the issue with maximum discretion, Israel National News reported. Lapid wants to hold off on such a dialogue until after the Israeli government passes a budget in the first week of November.
The issue is a political powder keg.
If there’s a reopening, the United States would once again have separate missions for the Israelis and the Palestinians in Jerusalem — and Israelis believe that would infringe on their sovereignty in the city, Axios noted. But for the Palestinians, it could strengthen their claim to be part of Jerusalem.
Asked after Lapid's visit about the possibility of the United States opening a consulate in the West Bank instead, an unnamed Israeli responded favorably but said he couldn't say whether that was under consideration, Ravid reported.
A spokesperson for Lapid said no team was formed yet, and he reiterated he’d made his opposition to the reopening of the consulate clear in all of his meetings in Washington.
"We have nothing new for you on this issue at this time," a State Department official told Ravid.
The diplomatic mission was the U.S. government's de facto representative office to the Palestinian Authority before being shut down in March 2019.
The consulate was downgraded to the Palestinian Affairs Unit and merged with the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem that opened May 2018 after former President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital.
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