From consulate to settlements, how Biden lied about reversing Trump’s policies in Palestine
As of yet, the Biden administration has not fulfilled its pledge to reopen the US consulate in Jerusalem, an office that for decades served as the de facto embassy for Palestinians from East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
It was shut down in 2019 by the previous US president Donald Trump, and its staff was absorbed by the US embassy in Israel, which was moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem a year prior.
The Biden Administration repeatedly said that it will reopen the US consulate in Jerusalem, but still procrastinates on the issue, especially due to heavy Israeli rejection and pushback. Israel views the reopening the consulate as a challenge to its claims that an undivided Jerusalem as its capital, a claim that is rejected by the international community.
Unfortunately, so far, it seems that the US is succumbing to the Israeli position, and essentially allowing Israel to dictate its foreign policy.
"[R]eopening the diplomatic mission by the Biden Administration would not be creating any new reality, rather it simply restores a status quo that had existed for 175 years before Trump disrupted it"
Ever since assuming office, the Biden administration has been passive and disinterested when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Yet the issue over the consulate, in particular, should not be glossed over.
To put things in perspective: the US consulate in Jerusalem was established in 1844, over a century before Israel came into existence in 1948. Hence, reopening the diplomatic mission by the Biden Administration would not be creating any new reality, rather it simply restores a status quo that had existed for 175 years before Trump disrupted it.
In his four-year term, Trump's Middle East Policy has acted as an executive branch for Israel’s colonial occupation. Every illegal measure enacted by Trump was meant to legitimize the Israeli occupation, and discredit Palestinians' rights to their land.
Shuttering the consulate in Jerusalem was no exception to this pattern in delegitimizing the Palestinians' claims to the city. It was also a decision in breach of international law, UNSC resolutions, the Geneva Conventions, that recognize the rights of the Palestinian people within the pre-1967 borders including East Jerusalem.
While the Biden administration reversed Trump's decisions with regards to Europe, Iran, Yemen, amongst others, Trump's illegal measures towards the Palestinians still remain largely in place.
Israel's aim is to extend Trump's Middle East policy further into Biden's term, and so far, the Biden administration is allowing that to happen.
The Trump administration's illegal measures created facts on the ground in Palestine that blatantly supported the occupation and violated Palestinian rights and international resolutions. The Biden administration's unwillingness, or reluctance, to reverse those measures will give credence to the illegal parameters set by Trump at the expense of universal parameters backed by international law, which were in line with positions of the previous US administrations.
In terms of the consulate issue in particular, the administration's reluctance to reopen it gives recognition to Israel's annexation of East Jerusalem, and emboldens the denial for Palestinian rights in the city.
This is a very significant issue, and yet the Biden administration is allowing Israel to shape its decision to reopen the diplomatic mission to the Palestinians in Jerusalem.
In October, in a visit by US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Hady Amr to Ramallah, the PA president Mahmoud Abbas raised the issue of reopening the US consulate, to which Hady responded that the matter is on Bennet's desk.
The Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennet has repeatedly reiterated his position against reopening the consulate. Earlier this month, Bennet said that he will not allow Washington to reopen the US consulate, stating, "there is no place for an American consulate that serves the Palestinians in Jerusalem," and that "Jerusalem is the capital of the State of Israel only."
When the US lets the decision regarding Jerusalem be in Israel's hands, what other result is there to expect?
Obviously, the US does not need permission from Israel to reopen its consulate in Jerusalem.
By putting the fate of Palestinian rights in Jerusalem in the hands of Israeli leaders, the US is providing a de facto recognition in favour of Israel's system of military and apartheid rule over the Palestinians, in addition to implicitly recognizing Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem.
In a press statement sent to The New Arab, Defense for Children International Palestine (DCI) said that 61 children were killed in the coastal enclave and 16 in the West Bank and East Jerusalem...https://t.co/n8G3HbE3Z0— The New Arab (@The_NewArab) November 21, 2021
The facility that the US is likely to operate the consulate out of is already under its control, and its employees are already working in the Palestinian Affairs Unit in the Israeli Embassy. Reopening the consulate does not require much effort from the Biden administration other than to merely take the decision to reopen the consulate and appoint a consul general.
Moreover, there are already many European countries that operate consulates in Jerusalem that serve the Palestinian people.
The Biden administration cannot equivocate on the consulate issue. It is a clear-cut indicator position of whether the democratic administration is against or supports Israel's occupation of the Palestinian territories, the annexation and continued colonization of East Jerusalem, and displacement of the Palestinians from the city.
Biden and his spokespersons claim that their administration wants to put human rights at the centre of its foreign policy. This is the perfect test.
"Biden and his spokespersons claim that their administration wants to put human rights at the centre of its foreign policy. This is the perfect test"
Restoration of the US Consulate is synonymous with international law and the Palestinians' human rights, especially political rights. Failure to do so, the Biden administration will greenlight a new reality that intends to deny the Palestinian people’s rights in Jerusalem.
Furthermore, if the Biden administration compromised on reopening its consulate in Jerusalem, Israel will be encouraged to prevent other diplomatic missions to the Palestinians from operating in the city.
If the Biden administration, as it claims, cares about international law and human rights, there must be no compromise on this issue. The Biden administration must reopen its consulate immediately, and use that move as a statement to Israel that it is not allowed to annex East Jerusalem and cut it off from the Palestinian territories.
The Biden administration must also pronounce this move as an emphatic statement of commitment to ending Israel's decades-long occupation of the Palestinian territories, and support for Palestinians' rights to statehood with East Jerusalem as the capital.
Ahmed Zed is a journalist and researcher whose work focuses on issues linked to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
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Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author, and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.