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Republican bill would bar US consulate for Palestinians

A prominent Israel-focused advocacy group has come out against the bill, and it is unclear if Democrats will sign on.
Israel embassy

Dozens of Republican senators introduced legislation this week aimed at stopping the Biden administration’s plan to reopen a US consulate for Palestinians in Jerusalem

Sen. Bill Hagerty of Tennessee introduced the Upholding the 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Law Act of 2021 on Tuesday, alongside Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and 32 other Senate Republicans. The bill seeks to block US President Joe Biden’s plans to reopen a consulate to the Palestinian people in East Jerusalem by outlawing any funding for a US diplomatic facility in Jerusalem aside from the embassy to Israel. 

“It is outrageous that the Biden Administration continues to voice support for reopening a consulate in Jerusalem, which calls into question its status as Israel’s capital,” said Rubio in a press release. 

Former US President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in 2018, reversing decades of US policy. He moved the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem to this end, and merged it with the US consulate to the Palestinian Territories that was already in the holy city. In doing so, Trump implemented a 1995 bill that recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Both Israelis and Palestinians envision Jerusalem as their capital, and the city has a mixed population of Jews, Arabs, Armenians and others. 

In May, Biden announced that he would reopen the consulate in Jerusalem as part of his efforts to restore relations with the Palestinian Authority. He has not reversed Trump’s recognition of the city as Israel’s capital, however. 

The bill’s chances of passing are unclear. The self-described “pro-Israel, pro-peace” organization J Street is against the legislation, saying it would “intensely undermine the prospects for peacefully resolving a critical, highly-sensitive final status issue,” according their deputy director of government affairs.

“J Street strongly believes in the need for the reopening of the American consulate in Jerusalem, so that the US can play an effective role as an honest broker in the Israel-Palestinian conflict and show our our serious commitment to repairing US-Palestinian relations,” Hannah Morris told Al-Monitor today. 

A spokesman for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) told Jewish Insider that they have no position on the bill, but support Jerusalem remaining Israel’s undivided capital. AIPAC is a major pro-Israel lobby group in the United States. 

The bill was referred to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday, and there has been no further action. Pro-Israel Democrats would be going against the Biden administration if they were to vote for it. 

Most of Congress supports Israel to varying degrees, and the support comes from both Democrats and Republicans. A growing number of progressive Democrats support the Palestinian cause, on the other hand. One Minnesota congresswoman introduced a bill today condemning Israel’s recent decision to designate several Palestinian organizations as terrorists. 

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