Jerusalem’s survival as the Jewish capital threatened

Say what you want about former US President Donald Trump, but Israel can only be grateful.

During his presidency, Jerusalem was finally recognized as the historical capital located in Israel, the US Embassy was moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights was recognized, among other decisions. Since 1995, when the US Senate legislated that the embassy should be located in Jerusalem, presidential candidates had promised to make the move. Once in office, however, each one avoided doing so.

To no surprise, the United Nations rejected Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem. Voting lockstep on December 21, 2017, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and 122 other nations condemned the move. A mere nine nations cast “No” votes siding with the US, including the Czech Republic, Hungary and Romania, at odds with the other clearly annoyed EU states. Australia and Canada abstained.

Today, the situation is vastly different. Since his inauguration, US President Joe Biden has strived to undo his predecessor’s policies.

Concerning Israel, the White House has made clear its intention of opening a consulate-general in Jerusalem for Palestinian affairs. It would operate under the auspices of the US State Department, not the US Embassy in Jerusalem.

Such a move would do worse than redivide Jerusalem: It would resurrect the view that Jerusalem is not a part of Israel. This is stressed by Nathan and Alysa Lewin, the Washington attorneys who fought for 18 years to have passports of American children born in Jerusalem list “Israel” as their country of birth (Newsweek, October 14, 2021). Note that for 70 years, until Trump’s Jerusalem proclamation, passports of Jerusalem-born American citizens listed “Jerusalem,” not “Israel,” as the country of birth.

But why open another diplomatic facility in Jerusalem at all? Consular services are already available to all persons through the existing American embassy in the Talpiot neighborhood of Jerusalem. Diplomatic liaisons with the Palestinian Authority could be accommodated, if truly needed, by opening a facility in Ramallah near PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s offices, as other countries have done. In fact, this would be in line with the oft-touted “two-state solution.”

Constitutional and international law scholar Prof. Eugene Kontorovich explains that it is a means of undermining the Trump achievement of recognizing Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem. He states: “The purpose of opening the consulate is to recognize Palestinian claims to Jerusalem….[It] would be designed to signal US support for a Palestinian capital in that city.” And it would be unprecedented.

As the White House increases pressure, the good news, says Kontorovich, is that “under international law, the US would need Israel’s permission for the move.”

The Lewin’s are more blunt, urging Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett to resist the White House and the US State Department: “If Bennett acquiesces to US pressure, he will go down in history as the Israeli leader who gave away Jerusalem.”