The Palestinian Foreign Ministry on Sunday slammed Israel for rejecting the reopening of a U.S. consulate in Jerusalem that would serve as a diplomatic mission for Palestine after it was initially shuttered under former President Donald Trump‘s administration.
Earlier this year, U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken pledged to reopen the consulate in order to repair damages inflicted on the Palestinians after the Trump administration largely favored Israel regarding conflicts in the region.
“We’ll be moving forward with the process of opening a consulate as part of deepening of those ties with the Palestinians,” Blinken again announced at the State Department on October 13, per Reuters.
However, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has repeatedly said that the country would reject such a move, stating that there is “no room” for another American mission in Jerusalem.
“Jerusalem is the capital of one state and that’s the state of Israel,” Bennett added late Saturday, according to the Associated Press.
The administration then suggested that the consulate could instead be opened in the Palestinian administrative center in the West Bank. But on Sunday, Palestinians rejected the offer and said Israel does not have the authority to block a second U.S. mission.
“East Jerusalem is an inseparable part of the occupied Palestinian territory and is the capital of the state of Palestine. Israel, as the occupying power, does not have the right to veto the U.S. administration’s decision,” the statement said, per AP.
Jerusalem has long been a contested city in the region, with Israel viewing the entire city as its capital, while Palestinians want East Jerusalem to be the capital of their future state. East Jerusalem, along with the Gaza Strip and West Bank, was captured by Israel during the 1967 war.
Trump exacerbated the situation in 2017 when he officially recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and announced his plans to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to the holy city.
During that move, the then-president downgraded the U.S.- Palestinian consulate’s operations and placed them under his ambassador to Israel, according to the AP. The controversial relocation prompted Palestinians to sever most ties with his administration.
The Biden administration said last month that it will reopen the consulate while leaving the current embassy in place. However, Blinken has not yet provided a firm date for the reopening, and officials have noted that Israeli opposition could complicate the matter.
U.S. Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources Brian McKeon told the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations in October that he believes reopening the consulate would require “the consent of the host government,” the Times of Israel reported.
Israel’s deputy foreign minister also said last month that the Biden administration may halt its plan to reopen the consulate, citing “political complexities.”
“I believe that I have good reason to think this will not happen,” Idan Roll told Israel’s Ynet TV, per Reuters. “We have very good relations … We don’t believe in surprising them. I don’t think they will try to surprise us.”
Nonetheless, Biden has vowed to help restore U.S.-Palestinian relations since the start of his presidency by renewing economic aid and humanitarian support to the Palestinian people.
“Under the new administration, the policy of the United States will be to support a mutually agreed two-state solution, one in which Israel lives in peace and security alongside a viable Palestinian state,” Acting U.S. Ambassador Richard Mills said in an announcement earlier this year.
Newsweek contacted the White House and the U.S. State Department for additional comment but did not hear back in time for publication.