The United States and Israel are planning to create a joint team to discuss reopening the US consulate in Jerusalem, according to a new report.
During their meeting in Washington last week, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid reportedly discussed the issue of the consulate, which was shut down by former President Donald Trump in 2019, according to Axios, which cited Israeli officials.
Senior officials under Israel Prime Minister Naftali Bennett are allegedly wary of reopening the consulate, citing that it could destabilize their ideologically diverse coalition.
“I don’t know how to hold this coalition together if you reopen the consulate,” Lapid said last week, per the report.
Blinken reportedly told the foreign minister that he recognized their position and wanted to start a discussion towards a solution. The secretary of state suggested creating a team including himself, Lapid and one or two aides from either side to further discussions, per the report. The team would have “maximum discretion.”
While Lapid allegedly agreed, he is looking to pause discussions around the consulate until after Israel passes a federal budget in November.
The discussions come amid a year of division in Israel, particularly between Israelis and Palestinians in Jerusalem.
The U.S. has pledged to re-establishing its diplomatic outreach to Palestinians, which used to be based out of the consulate. The move has sparked concern among Israelis, who believe the move could breach their sovereignty over Jerusalem, while Palestinians look to reinforce their claim over part of the city.
There is no set timeline for reopening the consulate.
During a news conference last week, Blinken affirmed the decision to move “forward with the process of opening a consulate as part of deepening of those ties with the Palestinians.”
Under the Trump administration, the consulate was absorbed into the US embassy when it moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. If reopened, the consulate would be separate from the embassy, leaving it in place.
Lapid also met with National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan during his trip to Washington last week where the two discussed the US’s “unwavering support” for Israel’s security and the country’s commitment to strengthening the two nation’s partnership.
According to the White House, Sullivan also “emphasized the importance of practical steps to improve the lives of the Palestinians.”