Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said on Wednesday that a U.S. plan to reopen its consulate in Yerushalayim that has traditionally been a base for diplomatic outreach to Palestinians is a “bad idea” and could destabilize Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s government.
The prior administration of President Donald Trump signaled support for Israel‘s claim on Yerushalayim as its capital by moving the U.S. Embassy there from Tel Aviv and subsuming the consulate in that mission.
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.
“We think it’s a bad idea,” 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.
“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.”
The U.S. Embassy had no immediate comment.
“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,” he said.
Divisions among Palestinians also cast doubt about the prospects for diplomacy, Lapid said. “I am a believer in the two-state solution… but we’ll have to admit the fact this is not feasible in the current situation.”
Biden raised the issue with Bennett during their meeting last week, and made clear that he still plans to reopen the mission, a U.S. official said.
The Biden administration announced its plan to reopen the consulate in May, but agreed to hold off on the move until after Bennett’s government passes a budget in November in order to prevent the destabilization of the coalition, according to Israeli officials.
In another statement that could cause a diplomatic crisis, Lapid said that the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan was the right move but was carried out poorly, in the first sound of criticism from a senior Israeli official about the recent withdrawal.