US proposes joint team with Israel amid consulate dispute

US proposes joint team with Israel to limit fall-out over Jerusalem consulate reopening
2 min read
21 October, 2021
Reports have said the US proposed a joint team with Israel to discreetly discuss and resolve the dispute surrounding plans by Washington to reopen its Palestine consulate in Jerusalem
Lapid (R) warned Blinken (L) that any such move would put the Israeli government at risk of collapsing [AFP/Getty]

The US and Israel are looking to form a joint team aimed at resolving a dispute over Washington's plans to reopen a consulate in Jerusalem - used for diplomatic outreach with Palestinians - despite strong Israeli opposition, reports said Wednesday.

The joint panel would include US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, Axios reported.

It was put forward by Blinken during his meeting with his Israeli counterpart in Washington last week.

Lapid reportedly warned Blinken that the reopening of the de-facto Palestinian consulate - closed by former President Donald Trump in 2019 - could put the Israeli government at risk of collapsing due to the disparate views on the subject.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and other high-ranking Israeli officials have outright rejected plans to reopen the consulate.

"I don't know how to hold this coalition together if you reopen the consulate," Lapid told Blinken during their meeting, according to Axios.

The report continued that Blinken acknowledged the political sensitivity surrounding such a decision, adding that the goal of a joint team would be for both sides to reach a solution in a "discreet fashion aimed at preventing the matter from turning into a larger diplomatic incident".

In addition to closing the consulate, Trump also bolstered Israeli claims over occupied East Jerusalem by moving the US embassy to the city in 2018, sparking outrage across the world.

Tel Aviv is viewed as the de-facto capital of Israel by much of the world while the Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

It is unclear if and when a joint US-Israeli team would be established.

Blinken said last week that the US administration intends to press ahead with its plan to reopen the consulate but will leave the embassy in Jerusalem in place.

US President Joe Biden has vowed to improve ties with the Palestinian Authority, badly damaged by Trump's decision to move the embassy to Jerusalem.

Israel illegally annexed East Jerusalem in 1980 in a move widely rejected by the international community and claims the entire city as its capital.