Palestinians: U.S. Doesn’t Need Israel’s Permission to Open Consulate in Yerushalayim

View of the U.S. Consulate General on Agron Street in central Yerushalayim. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The United States “does not need Israel’s permission” to reopen its consulate for Palestinians in Yerushalayim, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh argued Wednesday, calling on Washington to impose sanctions against settlements.

President Joe Biden had pledged in recent months to reopen the consulate for Palestinians in Yerushalayim, closed under former President Donald Trump.

The Palestinians want to make east Yerushalayim the capital of the state they aspire to have, while Israel has decreed the city “one and indivisible.”

Over the weekend, Israel categorically opposed the reopening of a U.S. Consulate in Yerushalayim to the Palestinians.

Instead, Israel suggested that the U.S. open one in Ramallah, the current headquarters of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.

“Ramallah is not Jerusalem, Ramallah is not the capital of Palestine […] For us the reopening of the consulate in east Jerusalem has a great political significance,” Shtayyeh said Wednesday.

“We want this consulate in Jerusalem to be the future U.S. Embassy for the state of Palestine,” he said at a meeting with the foreign press in Ramallah.

“I am sure that the United States does not need anyone’s permission, because east Jerusalem is an occupied territory […] We are confident that [the Biden administration] will fulfill its promise,” Shtayyeh added.

He also called on Washington, Israel’s main supporter, to impose sanctions against products from the settlements, where more than 675,000 Israelis live, in east Yerushalayim and Yehudah and Shomron.

Shtayyeh also warned Israel on Wednesday that its refusal to accept a two-state solution to the century-old conflict would perpetuate a system of “apartheid” and eventually result in a one-state reality in which Israel loses its Jewish character.

The Israeli government sworn in last June consists of parties from across the political spectrum, including supporters and opponents of Palestinian statehood. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is opposed to the creation of a Palestinian state and has refused to meet with Palestinian officials.

At the press conference, Shtayyeh accused Bennett of “three no’s”: no to meeting with PA President Mahmoud Abbas; no to peace negotiations; and no to a Palestinian state.

“If you have three ‘no’s, what are your ‘yes’s?” Shtayyeh asked.

It appeared to be a reference to the famous “Three No’s” adopted by the Arab League after the 1967 war: no peace with Israel; no recognition; and no negotiations. Since then, Egypt and Jordan have made peace with Israel and an additional four Arab countries recognized it last year.

Israel rejects allegations of apartheid made by two prominent human rights groups earlier this year, accusing them of bias and of unfairly singling it out.

The current government says that because of its divisions it has adopted a middle ground in which it will neither annex territory nor establish a Palestinian state.

Shtayyeh said Palestinians now outnumber Jews in Israel and in Yehudah and Shomron, with 6.9 million Palestinians and 6.7 million Jews between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, without providing a source. Israelis and Palestinians debate the exact figures, but experts generally agree that the populations are approaching parity.

Israel’s population of more than nine million includes nearly seven million Jews and two million Palestinian citizens. More than two million Palestinians live in Gaza and nearly three million live in Yehudah and Shomron. Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005.

Advocates of a two-state solution of Israel and Palestine living side by side have long warned that if Israel does not create a Palestinian state it will soon rule over a Palestinian majority, forcing it to choose between being a democracy and a Jewish state.

“If we lose the two-state solution we are slipping into a one-state reality,” Shtayyeh said, echoing remarks made by Abbas at the U.N. General Assembly in September.

“Israel is an apartheid state today and Israel will continue to be tomorrow as well,” Shtayyeh said. “If they think that we are losing tomorrow, they will be losing after tomorrow.”